Daily Herald
By Robert Sanchez | Daily Herald Staff

The fire station at DuPage Airport won’t be totally abandoned when West Chicago firefighters move into new digs at the end of the year.

As part of an intergovernmental agreement between the DuPage Airport Authority and West Chicago Fire Protection District, at least one experienced firefighter will continue to be stationed at the airport in West Chicago.

The agreement ensures the airport will always have someone on-site to operate its aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicle. The nearly $800,000 vehicle only needs one occupant to fight fires.

David Bird, the airport’s executive director, said having an on-site firefighter means critical time won’t be lost if there is an emergency.

“We know these things do occur, unfortunately,” Bird said Wednesday. “There’s the potential for fire. There’s obviously the potential for serious injuries. And when they do occur, we want to be in the best position possible to respond with trained personnel and state-of-the-art equipment.”

West Chicago’s Station 2 has been on airport property since 1980, according to Chief Ron Ackerman.

But the fire protection district is in the process of completing construction on two new stations, including a replacement for Station 2.

Station 3, which is expected to open in February, will be located along Commerce Drive near Roosevelt Road. It will give firefighters better access to the south side of the city.

Ackerman said the airport was a good location for Station 2 in the 1980s because there was little development on the city’s north and northeast sides.

“But now with demographics changing on the north side and development happening, we feel there is a need to be more centrally located,” he said.

So the new Station 2, which is expected to be operational by January, will be on Atlantic Drive near North Avenue. That’s about a mile away from the airport.

Ackerman said it would take “an extended amount of time” for equipment from the new Station 2 to reach the far western part of the airport.

“I can tell you that when you are talking about jet fuel and high octane airplane fuel, you don’t have that amount of time,” Ackerman said.

He said that’s why the fire protection district and the airport worked together to draft the intergovernmental agreement.

As part of the pact, the airport will pay the personnel costs of providing the round-the-clock coverage. In the first year, that amount is estimated to total about $330,000.

Another move expected to improve safety at the airport is the awarding of $845,000 in federal grant money so the airfield’s signage can be replaced or brought up to FAA standards. Bird said the new signs will help reduce the possibility of confusion among pilots.