BATTLE CREEK (AP) – Battle Creek officials plan to work out a way to provide fire service at W.K. Kellogg Airport if the Michigan Air National Guard closes a fire department that helps to serve the facility.
Col. Ronald Wilson, commander of the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, announced Wednesday that $3.4 million to operate the base’s fire department has been eliminated for the next fiscal year, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.
If the decision stands, 27 full-time firefighters will lose their jobs and the fire station at the base will close Sept. 31.
“There will be fire service at W.K. Kellogg Airport,” said Larry Bowron, city transportation director. “That is not something we are willing to give up.”
Service could be provided by the Battle Creek Fire Department, airport employees or a new fire station at the airport.
Currently, the guard base’s firefighters are available for fire and rescue service at W.K. Kellogg Airport, which is part of the same airfield as the base, as well as private companies located at the airport and Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation.
The base’s fire department also assisted area fire departments with responses to major incidents.
The cuts come as the Battle Creek Air National Guard Base prepares for a future of flying drones as part of broader mission changes in the military. The base lost its aircraft last year, but it’s not clear yet whether drones will be at the Battle Creek base itself.
“It is happening to all bases that are receiving drones,” said Capt. Craig Warn, a spokesman for the 110th Airlift Wing at the base. “Others are being faced with the same issues.”
Bowron and City Manager Ken Tsuchiyama said city officials are working with guard base and others at the airport to determine how to continue fire service, and officials also hope to delay or change the decision about closing the base’s fire department.
“We are still trying to help the guard figure out ways to extend further or put off indefinitely the decision,” Tsuchiyama said.
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