The Orange County Board of Supervisors decided this week to explore alternatives to using county firefighters at John Wayne Airport.

Board members had considered replacing the contract with the Orange County Fire Authority, reducing current staffing levels and creating a specific airport fire department, but decided to maintain the status quo for the next year while researching alternatives.

On the heels of the airport opening its new Terminal C, which is part of a $543-million expansion and renovation project, the supervisors considered a reduction to staffing. The OCFA's union pushed back on the suggested cuts.

The board could save $600,000 annually by reducing seven firefighters to six per shift, which would satisfy Federal Aviation Administration standards.

If the county wanted JWA to have its own fire department, the county would have to hire and train workers to meet firefighting and FAA standards, then pay them accordingly. They would likely be classified as firefighters, meaning the county would likely have to bargain with an organized employee group, according to the county's staff report.

Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is the only airport in California with its own fire department.

If the county opts to bring in another outside agency to cover the airport, miscellaneous things like fleet maintenance would have to be addressed. OCFA firefighters maintain the airport's emergency vehicles as part of the agreement.

— Joseph Serna

Twitter: @JosephSerna