Hollywood Burbank officials decide to lower on-duty firefighter staffing levels

A Burbank Airport Fire Department truck sprays water on an old airplane fuselage after a mock explosion during the a training exercise on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.
(Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)

Hollywood Burbank Airport officials have decided its aircraft rescue and firefighting services can maintain the same level of service with two fewer people.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority voted 7-0 on Monday to reduce the minimum number of on-duty fire personnel at the airport to three firefighters and one captain on a 24-hour basis. Commissioners Bill Wiggins and Zareh Sinanyan were absent during the meeting.

For the record:

4:23 p.m. April 15, 2024A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that airport officials reduced its minimum number of on-duty personnel to three firefighters and one supervisor. They reduced personnel to three firefighters and one captain. The story also stated that airport had operated with five firefighters and one supervisor since 2015. It had been operating with five firefighters and one captain.

The airport had been operating with five firefighters and one captain at all times since 2015. However, authority staff said the same level of service can be provided to the airport with fewer personnel while still meeting Federal Aviation Administration standards.

Authority spokeswoman Lucy Burghdorf said since Hollywood Burbank is an Index C facility, the FAA requires it to have a minimum of two firefighters and one supervisor.

“We are as concerned about public safety as everyone else in this room,” said Frank Miller, the authority’s executive director. “We would not recommend to the authority or the commission to do anything that would jeopardize public safety. We feel confident with this recommendation and with my 35 years in this business, I feel very comfortable with this recommendation going forward.”

However, that sentiment was not shared by a few members of the public. Lew Stone, the secretary-treasurer of the California Professional Firefighters, and Dan Kutsch, president of the International Assn. of Firefighters Local I-61 union, both told the authority that reducing the staffing levels would reduce the effectiveness of the firefighting services at the airport.

Stone said the airport should be increasing its staffing levels instead of lowering them. Kutsch added that other Index C airports in the Southern California region — Ontario California International Airport, Long Beach Airport and John Wayne Airport — have at least six firefighters on duty at all times.

“As we upgrade this terminal, which we’re all going to be proud of, we should have a level of service that doesn’t keep it at six [firefighters],” Stone said. “That’s what we should be doing.”

Twitter: @acocarpio