Calgary International Airport replaces firefighters with private fire crew

A decades-old relationship between the Calgary Fire Department and the Calgary Airport Authority will be coming to an end next month.

End of contract means publicly employed firefighters will be re-assigned

Calgary Airport Authority owns the firehall and equipment at YYC but City of Calgary provided the firefighters under an agreement with the authority. That agreements ends this year. (Calgary Airport Authority)

A decades-old relationship between the Calgary Fire Department and the Calgary Airport Authority will be coming to an end next month.

The contract between the two organizations is expiring, and once it does, Calgary firefighters will leave the airport station for the last time.

Under a new contract arrangement, the Calgary Airport Authority will replace city firefighters with private crews on March 1. YYC owns the airport's fire station and all the specialized equipment inside.

Negotiations between the city and airport authority on a new deal didn't work out, which Fire Chief Steve Dongworth said was unfortunate.

Under the existing contract, Dongworth said the city spent more than it got paid to provide the airside service to YYC Calgary International Airport.

"We were losing money. We believe to the tune of half a million dollars a year, so obviously now we'll be half a million dollars better off not doing that business," Dongworth said.

"Having said that, we would have preferred to have come to an arrangement with the airport authority where we continued that business."

Airport heads new way

In the new contract, the task of initial response to any emergency calls on the airport runways will go to Canadian Airport Fire Services, a private company with 25 years in the business.

The airport authority would not do an interview on the development. In a statement, it said the move wasn't unusual.

"We saw an opportunity to directly manage and oversee first response services at the airport. YYC has been the only major airport in Canada that contracts its firefighting services to the city," the statement said. "Other major airports provide these services through specialized teams in house, or through external companies."

YYC said there will be no difference in service or runway protection for the travelling public.

'First-strike capability'

The city's crews still will respond to any calls from the airport terminal, the chief said. As well, they'll join any emergency response to any major incidents on runways.

"The team at the airport is just a first-strike capability, and you need much more weight-of-attack if you were to have a serious aircraft incident on the property," Dongworth said.

A total of 30 firefighters will leave the airport fire station and be assigned to other stations around Calgary, Dongworth said.

The change means the fire department will not need to hire as many recruits this year to replace firefighters who retire or leave the department, the chief said.


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