Las Vegas Sun

May 25, 2022

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Airport fire services likely won’t go private; savings outlined

Clark County commissioners said Tuesday that McCarran International Airport’s fire services aren’t likely to be privatized, but there are some ways the county could save money on firefighting costs.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak asked for a report from the county-owned airport at Tuesday’s commission meeting on the possibility of privatizing the fire station at the airport.

Airport Director Randy Walker said there are two companies in the country that provide private fire services at airports, but both serve only small airports. McCarran is one of the busiest airports in the country.

But Walker said discussions with the county’s fire department did lead to some possible changes that could save money.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires the airport to have a certain level of fire service at the airport, so cutting service isn’t possible without shutting down parts of the airport, Walker said.

Firefighters at the airport are also required to have additional training and certifications, so while they are not paid extra for working at the airport, there is a limited number of qualified people to fill in when the station is short staffed, Walker said.

Fire Chief Steve Smith suggested training firefighters at other fire stations so they could fill in at the airport, which would reduce the number of times airport firefighters are paid overtime.

Another area of possible savings would be to allow staff openings at the airport to be filled more quickly, officials said. Currently, the firefighters’ contract allows openings at the airport to go to bid every two months, so if there is an opening, other firefighters are required to work overtime until the position can be filled, Walker said.

The airport also recommended creating a list of those firefighters who could fill certain needs more quickly, which would require less overtime. But that would require a change to the firefighters’ contract, which commissioners couldn’t discuss because of ongoing negotiations.

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