National Guard firefighters being reassigned
Published 6:58 PM CDT Jun 02, 2014
FORT SMITH, Ark. —Fort Smith Regional Airport commissioners are trying to figure out how to provide fire and rescue services so they can keep commercial flights coming and going.
The 188th Arkansas Air National Guard provides airplane crash and firefighter response for the Fort Smith Regional Airport, but since the 188th is undergoing a mission change from flying A-10 jets to remotely piloted aircraft, those firefighters at the guard base will soon be reassigned.
Without the emergency response the base has provided the airport for years, commercial jet service would be grounded.
“It’s a big deal. Since we are a commercial service airport we are required by the (Federal Aviation Administration) to perform those functions,” said John Parker, the airport’s director.
The airport has a tentative agreement with the guard base to use two fire trucks.
“We’ll have to provide the manning for those, the workforce,” Parker said.
The airport commission met Monday morning to discuss options for replacing the Air National Guard firefighters. Options include hiring firefighters who would be airport staff, or using an outside agency, such as the Fort Smith Fire Department or a private company.
Parker said no matter which option the board chooses, the cost will be a concern.
“As we’re self-sufficient and not on a tax base, we have to earn the money that we spend, so we have to be cost conscious,” Parker said.
As of Monday, Parker said he was not sure how much the firefighter acquisition would cost the airport.
To meet FAA requirements, the airport could staff the fire station with as few as four firefighters, which would mean one firefighter manning one truck per work shift.
The Fort Smith Regional Airport has until Oct. 1 to replace the firefighters. Commissioners will meet again in two weeks.
The firefighters from the 188th Air National Guard base are being reassigned to Fort Chaffee.
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