Chief gives primer on Airport Rescue & Firefighter unit

A headshot of Chief Nathan Elledge of King County International Airport/Boeing Field

Chief Nathan Elledge

(By Chief Nathan Elledge, Airport Rescue & Firefighting)

For more than a year, I’ve had the privilege to serve as your Chief of Airport Police and Fire here at King County International Airport/Boeing Field. During my tenure, I’ve noticed that there seems to be some confusion as to who has jurisdictional responsibility when it comes to police and fire response at the airport. Given that, I’d like to provide you with an overview of who we are and what we do.

The King County Airport Police and Fire Department, commonly known as the ARFF (Aircraft Rescue & Firefighter) unit, is comprised of 18 men and women from the King County Sheriff’s Office. They are uniquely cross-trained to handle police, fire and EMS duties at the Airport. Our staff includes a fire inspector, as well as a dedicated trainer who helps keep our staff trained to the highest level.

Our deputies/firefighters are the primary first responders for law enforcement and fire-related issues that occur on airport property. With the exception of the Military Delivery Center, the Museum of Flight and a portion of The Boeing Co. buildings on the northwest corner of the airfield, all of the hangars and structures at King County International Airport/Boeing Field are on airport property and therefore fall within our jurisdiction. Beyond the airport, police and fire response is handled by the Cities of Tukwila and Seattle – depending on the exact location.

ARFF Water Training 3

Boeing Field Airport Rescue and Firefighting unit training

Combining police and fire resources into one public safety department is rare in the United States, but we certainly aren’t the only ones doing it. The Louisville International Airport in Kentucky, the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska and the Asheville Regional Airport in North Carolina all have public safety departments with officers who are cross-trained in law enforcement and aircraft rescue-firefighting.

One of the biggest challenges of maintaining a dual-role public safety agency is the amount of training required to ensure that our staff is ready to respond to an array of emergencies. This training includes live-fire drills, practicing with ladders and hoses, emergency vehicle operations (aka, police cars and fire trucks), firearms practice and airport operations. Recently, we conducted water-supply training with our partners at Tukwila Fire Department, Seattle Fire Department and The Boeing Co.

This spring, we plan to hold an open house and information session for tenants at our station (next to the airport’s control tower) to showcase our police and fire equipment, as well as answer any questions. We’ll announce details closer to the event.

In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me or any member of our department with questions, comments or concerns. Our phone number is 206-296-7392, and we are here 24 hours a day.

ARFF Water Training 1

Boeing Field Airport Rescue and Firefighting unit training.