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Subzero to heroes

People standing in a hallway

Airmen from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, respond to broken pipes within Building 1, Feb. 15, 2021. Due to the subzero temperatures over Presidents’ Day weekend, many damaging incidents occurred around base including burst pipes, flooding, heating issues and roof leaks. (U.S. Space Force courtesy photo)


Since subzero temperatures over Presidents’ Day weekend, the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron has been busy making repairs to burst pipes, roof leaks and heating issues around Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

“Sustained subzero temperatures strained our HVAC equipment and froze fire suppression and domestic water piping, causing breaks when the ice began to thaw out,” said Maj. Joanna Leger, 21st CES operations flight commander. “Facilities in Colorado are not designed with subzero temperatures in mind so the extreme weather really pushed the envelope of our engineering systems.”

The incidents began to pile up, resulting in every section of the 21st CES helping with repairs.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Colbert, 21st CES contracting office representative, explained that the response to the incidents went smoothly due to great teamwork and coordination between the 21st CES, the 21st Contracting Squadron and the fire department.

“Operations personnel from all shops pitched in to help assess damage and clean up while HVAC, structures and plumbers were performing emergency repairs,” Leger said. “There were personnel running the [Unit Control Center] and making critical material purchases.  Additionally, we had amazing support from [the 21st CONS] to have contractors on site within 24 hours of all the primary breaks, and [the 21st Security Forces Squadron] assisted with contractor access to base.”

The amount of damage was high, however, base personnel and contractors are handling each issue with care and professionalism.

“We are still awaiting quotes for several repairs, but we estimate the total damage to be around $1.5 million,” said Leger. “The 21st CES responded to over 50 emergency calls in a 48 hour period connected with the extreme weather, and it impacted 40 facilities on base. Seventeen facilities sustained moderate to major water damage and 14 facilities had serious HVAC issues.”

The initial damages were responded to with the standard emergency process. An after-hours call was placed to the 24-hr customer line and the 21st CES response team assembled. The 21st CES leadership then prepared for additional incidents to be reported, according to Leger.

Leger explained that it is currently unknown how long repairs will take, but it is anticipated that everything will be completed by the end of March.

There will be more precautionary measures taken to mitigate situations such as these in the future.

“The UCC was capturing lessons learned from the event,” Leger said. “We are going to update guidance that is sent out to facility managers and ensure we consider risk based decision making in regards to isolating fire suppression systems in certain facilities ahead of extreme temperatures like the ones we saw that weekend.  We are also looking into measures to potentially better isolate certain facilities and advocate for project funding to upgrade certain HVAC systems.”

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui