By Isaac Bonnell
After years of planning, the Port of Bellingham officially opened its new $2.7 million Airport Rescue Firefighting Station Aug. 11.
“This is going to significantly improve the efficiency of our emergency response and will be a great place for our airport rescue fire fighters to work,” said Commission President Scott Walker in a statement.
The 7,550-square-foot building is larger than the previous station, which housed two fire trucks and was located farther from the tarmac. The port began planning the new facility in 2003 and later received 95 percent of the project funding from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The facility is also built to meet a higher level of airport traffic, said Aviation Director Art Choat. For its current size, Bellingham International Airport is required by the FAA to have two fire trucks on hand. The new station houses three fire engines, a staff of nine and will be able to accommodate years of growth at the airport.
“The FAA knows we’re growing,” Choat said. “It’s not if we get that big, but when.”
In July, the airport set a new record, averaging 1,000 departing passengers a day, said Commissioner Walker during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
To date, no major accidents have happened at the airport, Choat said. Several small planes have been forced to land without landing gear and a larger plane once slid off the end of the runway and sunk into the mud, but that is the extent of accidents at the airport.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “Flying is very safe — statically safer than driving.”