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FAA proposal draws fire

Authority joins several airports in opposing ‘unfunded mandate.’

July 11, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BOB HOPE AIRPORT — The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority this week joined a choir of voices rising from airports across the country protesting a proposed federal law that could add millions of dollars to on-site firefighting costs.

Airports nationwide oppose the possible Federal Aviation Administration standards, pointing to an independent Transportation Research Board study that states they could be forced to pay nearly $4 billion in the first year to comply.

The proposed National Fire Protection Assn. standards, which critics say amount to an “unfunded mandate,” would require airports to build nearly 600 airport rescue and firefighting facilities and purchase some 1,000 vehicles at a cost of $2.9 billion. Airports would also be on the hook to hire more than 11,000 firefighters at a cost of nearly $1 billion per year, the report states.

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“There’s no clear indication as to why changes are necessary,” said Jane Calderwood, vice president for government and political affairs at Airports Council International- North America, an umbrella group for airports. “We oppose any and all attempts to change the existing [Aircraft Rescue Firefighting] standards.”

The proposed changes came via the International Assn. of Firefighters, which successfully placed it in a resolution that made it through the U.S. House.

The airport authority on Monday voted to send a letter of opposition to Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein concerning the legislation, which has yet to be introduced in the Senate.

The organization, along with other airport governing boards, is working to keep the House language out of the Senate version of the bill.

While the requirements would force the average airport to build or relocate one fire station, purchase two additional vehicles and hire 23 additional firefighters for a first-year total of $8.2 million, Bob Hope Airport would need to double the minimum number of on-duty firefighters from six to 12 at a cost of $1.9 million.

The airport would have to take on new responsibilities, such as structure fires, investigations and cleanup of hazardous materials — tasks that are currently handled by the Burbank and Los Angeles fire departments, said Bob Hope Airport Fire Chief John Scanlon, who oversees a department of 18.

“The biggest stress is financial,” Scanlon said. “Nobody knows who is going to foot the bill.”

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