State-of-the-art station for Buffalo airport firefighters

Dignitaries and firefighters attend the ribbon cutting of the new fire station for the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Fire Department on August 23, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Dignitaries and firefighters attend the ribbon cutting of the new fire station for the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Fire Department on August 23, 2017. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – The NFTA cut the ribbon on a brand new $11 million fire station for the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Fire Department Wednesday morning.

Dignitaries from the federal and state level as well as brother and sister firefighters from neighboring fire departments were in attendance for the formal ceremony.

The NFTA planned for the construction of the new fire station as part of a recent NFTA master plan.

“The existing fire house that we had was bursting at the seams,” said Kimberley A. Minkel, Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

Firefighters have been utilizing the old fire station since the NFTA formed a fire department in 1981 and relieved the City of Buffalo of protection duties.

“It’s significantly smaller than the 24,500 sf that this new facility occupies.  It only had four bays compared to the eight bays that we have here,” added Ms. Minkel.

The lack of space forced some of the fire trucks to remain outside or share garage space with another NFTA department.  Chief William Major of the Buffalo Niagara International Airport Fire Department says it’s a night and day difference.

“The old fire station was about a third the size of this one. Everything was cramped. We were very, very cramped, so this spreads out our operation,” said Mr. Major.

The new station sports a new training facility with equipment purchased by the NFTA and the firefighter’s union, private dorm rooms for each firefighter on duty, on-site laundry, and an exhaust system in the apparatus bay to remove 100% of the diesel exhaust and harmful carbon monoxide produced by the fire apparatus.

The department even shaved a minute off of their response time when responding to incidents at the terminal and fuel farm. With their old location next to the cargo ramp, firefighters would need to enter a taxiway, have to wait for tower clearance to cross the busy main runway before reaching the terminal.  From the new location, the firefighters can get to the terminal in about a minute because they only need to cross the rarely used backup runway.

“We designed this with safety in mind, safety for the general public in terms of reducing the times we need to cross an active runway or an active taxiway to respond to an emergency, to the safety of the workers in terms of exposure, but also to the safety of their families so that they don’t bring any of this stuff home with them,” said Ms. Minkel.

She said that the department of 41 men and women responded to over 1,000 calls over the past two years and protects almost 26 million people traveling in and out of the airport on an annual basis.

“Just a week and a half ago we had a police officer and a fire officer save the life of an individual who went into cardiac arrest. Emergencies do happen, and they respond in minutes rather than tens of minutes,” continued Ms. Minkel.

“It is the thought that we just sleep all the day because there aren’t that many emergencies, but we do have medical emergencies that we respond to, spills that we respond to, and the aircraft incidences. Luckily those incidence numbers aren’t very high, and of all of our calls, that’s on the lower side of it,” added Mr. Major.

The new fire station is located at 120 Amherst Villa Road across from Mercy Flight.  An open house of the new fire station is planned to be held in conjunction with Mercy Flight’s open house on October 7th from Noon-4pm.