Originally Posted by Paul Ward
Hi Alan - 44 in the summer at McMurdo seems more than pro-rata compared to the pole station, any idea why this is?
I'd have thought that the pole would be drier and at more fire risk, no sea-water to hand either. The base I was on Signy was right on the sea-shore and fire-drill consisted partially of getting the pump up and running to pump sea-water onto any potential fire.
Fire protection isn't my specialty, but I was told that the South Pole station didn't have ANY full-time firefighters until a few years ago, when the Air Force / Air National Guard told USAP that they weren't going to fly any more planes in if there wasn't a fire crew on the ground.
Note: In the U.S. system, the National Guard is a State based branch of the military, which can be federalized in time of war. Most Air National Guard pilots are former Air Force pilots who want to keep their links to the military while pursuing civilian careers. Unlike the Army National Guard, these pilots, at least, get lots of training - maybe the equivalent of one week a month, and are quite good. The link here is that one unit of the New York Air National Guard has been flying support missions for the U.S. Antarctic Program for years, and that if Air Force regulations change, so will the Air National Guard regulations.
Otherwise, McMurdo Station has lots of buildings, lots of air operations, and lots of places where fire fighters may be needed for search and rescue, whereas at Pole there are limited flights, limited facilities, and the people at Pole are far less likely to wander off, because there's no where to go.
Finally, both stations tend to get a lot of young men from small towns, and the people who go to Antarctica tend to be the outdoorsy, adventurous types. These tend to be the same sort of people who have experience as volunteer firefighters or in search and rescue, or as EMTs (emergency medical technicians). In other words, despite having only 4 full-time firefighters on call at any time, there are probably another 30 or more well-trained personnel who can be called on in an emergency at the South Pole. McMurdo doubtless has more.
Hope that helps.