Live fire training final note of Fontaine’s career

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- It resembled the pre-game pep talk before a football game. About 20 Patrick AFB firefighters gathered around "player coach" Hugh Fontaine Monday morning as he gave them final instructions before starting live fire training at an abandoned base Central Housing unit.

Monday marked the start of week-long, daily live fire training exercises for base firefighters, but it also marked the beginning of the end for Mr. Fontaine's 37-year career as an Air Force firefighter - the last 20 spent at Patrick. Mr. Fontaine, the station captain, retires next month.

"I see myself as a mentor to the younger guys, so wrapping up my career leading this training is a great way for me to go out," said Mr. Fontaine.

According to Master Sgt. Dave Moreno, assistant fire chief, the training Mr. Fontaine is leading provides base firefighters a rare opportunity to train using live fire. "This is robust training in a controlled and safe environment that will greatly enhance our firefighters' capabilities," he said.

Sergeant Moreno added that the training is going well and that a lot of that is due to Mr. Fontaine's leadership. "He's a wealth of information and always has the best attitude of all the people in the department. He'll be missed for years to come," he said.

"I'll really miss the camaraderie that comes with being a firefighter," said Mr. Fontaine. "In this career field you live and work with your co-workers more than any other. I've done 24 (hours) on and 24 off for 37 years. I feel like I'm leaving my family."

The training concludes tonight with an exercise scheduled to start at 6 p.m. The two units used during the training are among 26 on Cumulus Lane scheduled to be demolished.
The decision to demolish homes on Cumulus Lane was made in 2004 as a result of close proximity to the newly built truck inspection station, which is located off of State Road A1A.