Most people are familiar with the Jamestown Fire Department and the rural fire departments around the area including the Jamestown Rural Fire Department. Fewer people are familiar with the firefighting presence at the Jamestown Airport Rescue and Fire building.
"It is a federal mandate that any time a commercial plane with more than 19 seats comes in there has to be a firefighter on duty," said Ben Maulding, one of the firefighters as well as a maintenance worker at the airport. "We have to be here from 15 minutes prior to landing until 15 minutes after a takeoff."
And by "here," Maulding means at the ARF building.
"We have to be able to reach the center of the airport within 90 seconds," he said, referring to the response time required at the time of a commercial takeoff or landing.
There is even a direct line telephone connection between the airline offices in the terminal and the office in the ARF building. If no one answers in the ARF building, the plane doesn't land, Maulding said.
With three flights in and out five days per week and two flights on the other two, being on standby at the ARF building doesn't keep the crew there busy.
"We also do maintenance at the airport," Maulding said.
Maulding and another maintenance worker are trained as firefighters and cover most of the day Monday through Friday.
Maintenance includes plowing snow during the winter, mowing grass during the summer and changing light bulbs as needed.
"There are a lot of light bulbs out there," he said.
On weekends, or when the regular ARF staff are off, specially trained members of the Jamestown Fire Department are assigned to the airport for commercial landings and takeoffs. JFD also responds to the airport if there were ever a large emergency requiring additional first responders.
The ARF staff has at its disposal a specially configured fire truck. The Federal Aviation Administration paid 90% of the cost of the emergency response equipment with 5% paid by the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission and 5% covered by the local airport authority.
Most aircraft fires involve fuel and the fire truck at the airport is specially designed and equipped to fight that type of fire, Maulding said. The truck is available to assist other fire departments if needed.
"It would be ideal if there were ever a tanker fire," he said.
Fortunately, duty at the ARF station has not included any major aircraft disasters.
"Only a few incidents since I've been here," Maulding said. "Smoke in the cockpit type incidents."
That is all right with Maulding.
"Hopefully it stays quiet," he said.