story by Ryan Saylor
The Fort Smith Regional Airport Commission approved a contract Tuesday (Aug. 26) with Pro-Tec Fire Services to provide firefighting protection and rescue services at the airport beginning Oct. 1.
The contract, at a cost of $251,000 during its first year and $258,000 during its second year, has three one year options to extend the deal between the commission and the company.
"This agreement provides for Index B ARFF coverage with one firefighter on shift everyday for 18 hours and a supervisor Monday – Friday during normal duty hours, who will act as the airport's primary point of contact and incident commander," airport Executive Director John Parker wrote in a memo to the commission on Aug. 21.
The company would essentially operate as its own body without oversight from the airport commission, Parker said. Should commercial or charter air traffic requiring ARFF coverage land at the airport outside of coverage hours, he said arrangements would be made with the airline or charter service requesting coverage that would begin 15 minutes before landing and would last until 15 minutes following departure.
ARFF (aircraft rescue and fire fighting) has been handled by the 188th Wing during the last 20 or more years at the airport, but with the manned flying mission having left the squadron, the firefighting mission it has hosted during that time will also depart. The last scheduled day of ARFF coverage by the 188th is Sept. 30.
And while Pro-Tec and the commission have come to terms for the contract approved Tuesday, they have yet to enter into a formal contract with the National Guard Bureau out of Washington, D.C., to utilize ARFF equipment in use by the 188th.
Original plans called for the airport commission to host its own firefighting mission using firefighters hired and paid by the commission, but efforts to hold the National Guard Bureau to verbal agreements made earlier in the year at a meeting at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport involving the Bureau, the airport commission and the Federal Aviation Administration went nowhere for months.
It was only recently that the Bureau and the airport began negotiating terms on the use of equipment and a firehouse on land leased by the 188th from the airport commission. But with the delay, the commission was feeling the pressure of possibly not having the Guard equipment to fall back on, meaning it needed to start meeting with companies who could provide full services — including firefighting equipment — on day one.
Parker said during Tuesday's meeting that contact with the National Guard Bureau has now returned to regularity and a deal for equipment use is being worked out.
As a part of the plan to use National Guard equipment, Parker said a recent FAA inspection of the airport also included the additional inspection of vehicles to be used by Pro-Tec in its firefighting mission for the commission. The inspection of three vehicles showed that two were ready for service, according to FAA regulations.
A contract with the National Guard Bureau should be complete within weeks with a transfer of equipment sometime during the last week of September, Parker said.