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Airport, city's fire department at odds over fire jurisdiction

Officials in conflict on firefighting authority

Thursday, Aug 29, 2013 7:13 PM
Last updated Friday, Aug 30, 2013 1:57 AM
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A conflict dating to the 1996 consolidation charter of Augusta and Richmond County has called into question the firefighting jurisdiction at Augusta Regional Airport.

The city and airport are at odds over who assumes incident command during an emergency at the airport: Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department Chief Chris James or Augusta Regional Airport Fire Department Chief Willie Paulk.

Airport staff and the city’s legal department have tried to reach an agreement since November. The issue surfaced at Thursday’s regular monthly meeting of the Augusta Aviation Commission.

The consolidation act states that the chief of the Augusta Fire Department exercises official duties throughout Richmond County, with the exception of the city of Hephzibah.

Augusta Regional Executive Director Gary LeTellier said the local ordinance does not take into account the airport’s Federal Operating Certificate and emergency operations manual that require specialized aircraft rescue and firefighting training for airport fire personnel.

The city’s fire crews do not have required training for aviation-related incidents, LeTellier said. He added that the airport needs mutual aid from the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department in the event of a structure fire on airport grounds.

James, who was not present at Thursday’s meeting, said Deputy Chief Sterling Jones has the required specialized training and previously worked at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. James is working to train more city personnel for aircraft rescue and firefighting, partly so the department can respond to plane crashes in areas outside Augusta Regional.

Because an amendment to the consolidation charter is not likely to pass the Augusta Commission, the airport wants to adopt a memorandum of understanding between the two fire departments, including terms for incident command and mutual aid, LeTellier said.

“We have a fire department that meets all federal rules and state guidelines, too,” LeTellier said. “What we’d say is let us do our job except when we have an incident that we think that we aren’t properly staffed for.”

Following meetings with airport staff and city officials in November, city attorney Jody Smitherman, who addressed the airport commission on Thursday, drafted a memorandum of understanding but no action was taken to approve it.

On Thursday, airport staff presented a memorandum of understanding drafted by the airport’s legal counsel to the commission.

The commission did not vote on the memorandum. Instead, the governing board charged legal counsel and the fire chiefs from the city and the airport to convene, find a solution and present it at the September commission meeting.

James said he wants to work with the airport to find a solution, but the memorandum of understanding needs to be in accordance with the consolidation charter. He’d like to clarify who is in charge for different types of emergencies.

“Different folks have different expertise for different things,” James said. “If an emergency takes place, we will go out there and we will work with them.”

Comments (19) Add comment
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Parnell S
77
Points
Parnell S 08/29/13 - 07:09 pm
7
0
Why?

What is wrong with the way it has been functioning? Did I miss something?

TCB22
694
Points
TCB22 08/29/13 - 07:59 pm
11
0
Why?

Why is this can of worms being opened? For gosh sakes, please leave the airport fire department alone!

If I am on an airplane that has a problem, I want the best, which are those dedicated personnel with specialized skills coming to my aid.

What is up with all of the power grabbing?

Run the city fire department and calm down. The airport fire department needs to be totally isolated and left to do their job. Don't distract them with political BS.

Parnell S
77
Points
Parnell S 08/29/13 - 08:36 pm
7
0
Good Comment

You really said it well TCB22.

shelby547
272
Points
shelby547 08/29/13 - 08:49 pm
10
1
Makes no sense

This is mind blowing. When will the fire chief stop grabbing for more power. First he tried to take over the ambulance service which he has zero experience in and now he wants to go after the airport fire department which he has no experience in. There were no complaints on the ambulance service but he wanted to butt in and got shot down because he has no background. Now why is he messing with the airport. These firefighters are specially trained and have great leadership. Dont mess with something that is working. Seriously, can this guy not get along with anyone who is already doing a great job for the citizens. Is power that important to him????

Fix your own problems chief. You can start by quit sending guys home because of overtime and leaving the city without fire coverage. The people above hit it on the head. Quit opening up stuff you aren't knowledgeable enough to handle and let whats working continue to work.

And if you cant. Maybe its time to replace you with someone who wants to work WITH others.

QuickDraw
91
Points
QuickDraw 08/29/13 - 09:19 pm
9
1
The current chiefs at Augusta Fire Dept. are lost.

Lets talk about the Part-Time Deputy Chief who actually lives in Atlanta who is never here on the weekends. He rents a home on Spirit Creek Drive. The so called Deputy Chief is not capable of responding from Atlanta to any incident much less a plane crash. Oh and just food for thought he might be taking a county government vehicle to Atlanta on the taxpayers expense.

As for his Airport firefighter certification he is not compliant with FAA so that would be a big problem when it comes to any certificated airport.

Chief James if your Deputy Chief is certified why not have him teach your firefighters airport firefighting instead of wasting taxpayer money. You do have a excellent training division right? Oh never mind you were in training before you became chief so that answers that question.

As I recall 1 month out of the year the Augusta Fire Department somewhat provides airport fire protection for the Daniel field airport. Are these particular firefighters airport firefighter certified? Not to mention the tower at that particular airport is manned. I wonder if FAA knows about that.

Chief James you have caused so much problems within your department as well with other agencies I see RED FLAGS EVER WHERE.

There's poor moral within the fire department
There's no continuity within the department
There's no communication within the department
And you as the fire Chief have no respect from your firefighters. Don't you feel the daggers in your back. The heat is steadily coming!!!!
Besides your degree what other fire certification do you have?

Your command experience as a chiefs shows heck you never go out to major fires you never assume command of a large incident. Oh that's right your a political Fire Chief. Well that's worth 1 cent in your firefighters eyes. Your definitely not worth what your salary is. A real firefighter's chief is a person who is there for his men. A character of a Fire Chief is one that has a bond with his firefighters. A good fire chief demonstrates this by being proactive and showing support to the men and women of the fire service.

Chief James neither you or your Deputy Chief meet these characteristics.

I find it really funny that the Airport Fire Chief has none of the issues you have. Maybe that department should take over the Augusta Fire Department. Somebody needs to put the Augusta Fire Department back on the map in a positive way. Commissioners you should look into that. Your headaches just might go away.

chuck666
33
Points
chuck666 08/29/13 - 09:35 pm
8
1
Augusta Fire Chief wants to rule the world

I have been keeping up with the EMS contract information in the news lately. I was also able to read the RFP dealing with the EMS contract Chief James of the Augusta Fire Department was attempting to push thru the commission chamber. Seems like he wants to control everything in Augusta. I was glad that the commissioners stopped his power grab. Now it seems he wishes to control the Airport. I wonder why the Fire Chief wants to control the Airport. I haven't heard of anything negative about the airport fire department or airport management. The Augusta Airport also makes the city money so I wish someone will tell power hungry people hands off.

rebellious
21814
Points
rebellious 08/29/13 - 09:44 pm
7
0
Ya'll Know

I love the movie Cool Hand Luke. I am torn as to which quote fits better here...

Is it "That's the way he wants it, well that's the way he get's it"

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=new%20jersey%20airport%20fined%20...

Or should it be "What we have here... is failure to...communicate"

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=new%20jersey%20airport%20fined%20...

I don't know which is more powerful.

Parnell S
77
Points
Parnell S 08/29/13 - 09:53 pm
7
0
Why?

Why fix something that isn't broke? I don't understand.

QuickDraw
91
Points
QuickDraw 08/29/13 - 09:54 pm
8
0
While we are on the subject of certification for firefighters

Has anyone bothered to look at the job qualifications for airport firefighters at Augusta Regional? They have to have more qualification than the Augusta Fire Chief has to have. This should tell you something these guys are not playing around out there at the airport. Very Proactive and it shows. I've heard nothing but good things about the staff and the management out there. Here's a clue!!!!!!!

dichotomy
37390
Points
dichotomy 08/29/13 - 11:00 pm
9
1
"Oh that's right your a

"Oh that's right your a political Fire Chief."

Well, let's just say he has the ONLY qualification required to be chief in Augusta. It is sort of like being the School Superintendent. You don't even have to be fully functional to keep that job in Augusta....just have that one qualification.

Chief James, just stick to something you can handle like showing up at the office and letting the real firemen go out and fight structure fires while you plot grandiose empires. Leave the airport fire department alone unless they call for help. You can't even keep the oxygen tanks filled. If you get your fingers in the pie we will end up getting the whole damned airport shut down by the FAA.

yasulh
154
Points
yasulh 08/30/13 - 12:57 am
6
0
Need to revisit Incident Command Training

It sounds like someone needs to revisit ICS training. The first person on the scene takes charge until someone more qualified takes charge or the person in charge gives command to someone else. It is based on first on scene and qualifications rather than agency politics to avoid these issues. If a plane goes down away from the airport, then the first agency on scene takes charge - this may be police or fire. If it is police, they would likely hand over to firefighters when they arrived. If it happened at the airport then the airport fire department would likely be first on scene. As for resources, since the airport has its own fire department, how about letting them handle it unless they call for backup.

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 08/30/13 - 04:55 am
7
0
Future Headline

ARC / Airport Fire Dept. Square On Runway as Jet Passengers Burn.

Far out and not likely?
Maybe but it sure is ARC Politics as usual, and another fight over a sand box instead of a logical solution.

Handling Airplane crashes and fires requires SPECIAL FAA Training and Certification.

Want to loose what little ARC Airport flights we have?
Keep fighting over whose sandbox it is while the FAA steps in and pulls the Certification and the flights stop over safety and insurance issues.

nocnoc
49121
Points
nocnoc 08/30/13 - 06:04 am
7
0
A side question

Given the NEW ambulance Contract and the 10 or so Meat Wagons that only need to be in operation inside ARC and less than 24 hours a day.

Say if a Commercial Jet (100-150 passenger) did crash at Bush Field, would there be enough EMT's and ambulances under the new contract to handle it?

Or is there a Ft. Gordon Backup support plan?

shelby547
272
Points
shelby547 08/30/13 - 06:19 am
6
0
commercial jet down

If there was a commercial jet down in ANY city just like a huge wildfire you would never expect one agency to handle it. If there was something like that you would call in help from anyone you could. If a 200 person plane went down, no city our size would have enough fire trucks or ambulance to handle it without help.

The real question here though is why would one man try to meddle with something someone else is much more qualified in. Let the Airport Fire do what they know how to do.

Riverman1
93346
Points
Riverman1 08/30/13 - 06:38 am
6
0
I'll listen to Rebel on this

I'll listen to Rebel on this one. Maybe he's tired of shaking the bush?

seenitB4
97022
Points
seenitB4 08/30/13 - 06:41 am
7
0
Power Grab

Oh how the fireworks will begin...

Little Lamb
48900
Points
Little Lamb 08/30/13 - 08:08 am
7
0
Maytag

I'll bet it's a boring job to be a full-time fireman at a firehouse that serves only the airport. Too bad the airport firemen can't respond to fires down on the south side.

Oh, yes, that might threaten chief James’ fiefdom.

Parnell S
77
Points
Parnell S 08/30/13 - 10:25 am
4
0
Think back

I do remember commenting concerning the testing of air bottles at AFD. Has the airport ever had that problem? What issues has the airport fire department had that is news worthy? Readers research the facts on concerning The Augusta Regional Airport Fire Department. Simple if you can navigate the internet. I am impressed. Keep up the good work ARA.

Sweet son
11514
Points
Sweet son 08/30/13 - 10:42 am
4
0
Fighting in the sandbox

I hope Chief James gets into the cat poop in the box and when this is over he will once again have poop on his face!

He is an empire builder like Azziz just on a smaller scale.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 08/30/13 - 01:01 pm
2
1
This might be of concern if
Unpublished

This might be of concern if one of the departments in question ever runs over a victim lying in the runway after a crash. I suspect there could be some liability of the party "in charge"...and it's clear, in this this case, there is a difference between what's on paper and what's being practiced.

chascushman
6653
Points
chascushman 08/30/13 - 03:03 pm
3
0
"Keep up the good work
Unpublished

"Keep up the good work ARA."
Parnell S, Augusta airport seems to be doing well. The city of Augusta is following in the footsteps of such great cities as Detroit. For several years I connected through the Detroit airport and it was not much better than the city. The folks working at the airport acted as if they were doing you a favor for any type of service. Even the stewardesses on the flights from Detroit to Japan or Hong Kong acted rude and as if they were doing you a favor by serving you. Most acted as if they had a chip on their shoulder.
This was just before Northwest declared bankruptcy, wonder why

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