The Clark County Fire Department and County commissioners are thinking about transferring the current McCarren Airport firefighters and transfer firefighting duties to a new firefighting authority maintained by the airport.
From the Las Vegas Sun: Emboldened by the Clark County Commission’s support for cutting Fire Department costs, county staff is considering a plan that would essentially privatize the firefighting force at McCarran International Airport...An authority at McCarran would place the small department into the hands of Aviation Director Randall Walker. Those firefighters could unionize, then negotiate with Walker for salary and benefits, but they would not be part of the existing county firefighters union. The county’s savings would come from transfer of 33 airport fire employees to a growing pool of firefighters who substitute for vacationing or sick colleagues at regular pay rates. Currently, absent firefighters are often replaced by an employee working overtime.
This raises some interesting questions. First, why are CCFD paramedics at McCarren when they don't even transport patients. AMR and Medic West do the transporting and there is no reason why they cannot station paramedics at McCarren. They can easily get rid of County paramedics and replace them with private paramedics.
2nd, are the commissioners grandstanding for election purposes or are they serious?
3nd, if the commission are serious, where would the new firefighters come from? The airport would be essentially starting a new fire department. It is doable, without a doubt, but they would have to find firefighters with airport experience. The armed forces have numerous air port firefighters, so I don't think you will have a problem finding experienced firefighters. But it will take some time for them to get used to McCarren, I would say a minimum of 6 months to a year before the new fire department is ready. Will current CCFD airport firefighters help the new firefighters? Will the union allow that?
4th, who owns the firefighting equipment at the airport? Does CCFD or the airport? If CCFD owns the equipment, will the airport authority reimburse CCFD for the equipment? If CCFD owns the equipment and the airport takes it over, who will do the repairs on the equipment?
What do I think? I think the County Commissioners are grand standing, especially Rory Reid. Reid sees this as a winning issue in the governor's race. People are pissed at CCFD because of all the overtime, especially at the airport. There is no doubt, that the airport fire station has an inordinate amount of overtime. It is also true that they are not over worked. They rarely get a true emergency where they have to spray foam or water. Occasionally, they will get a structure fire at the airport, but that has been about it in the past few years. They do get a lot of medical calls at the airport, but probably 99% of them require no specialized extrication or specialized skills that AMR or Medic West could not handle.You also need specialized training to work at an airport fire station. But CCFD does not have the corner on that specialized experience. Shoot, the firefighters at Nellis could immediately take over the airport firefighting at McCarren, if needed.
If the commissioners are really serious, then they need to act, quicker rather than later. But something tells me they are just throwing out a trial balloon and see how it plays. My guess, it will never see the light of day.