HILL AIR FORCE BASE — They hope it never happens — that goes without saying — but if an F-35 ever crashes on Hill Air Force Base’s flightline, safety officials say they’ll soon be prepared for such a catastrophe.
Construction is set to begin in the coming weeks on a new base fire station that will double as an F-35 crash rescue facility. The 35,000-square-foot facility will be strategically located right outside the flightline parameters, allowing emergency personnel almost immediate access to the area where Hill’s fleet of Lightning IIs will be taking off and landing for the next 30 to 40 years.
The $13 million station will replace an outdated, small and dilapidated one that sits vacant near where construction will begin on the new facility.
Col. Ronald Jolly, commander of the 75th Air Base Wing, said the infrastructure was failing at the old station, making it unsafe, and firefighters were forced to stay in old dorm rooms on base because of the lack of space.
“It was not optimal at all,” he said.
Many of the fire operations have been moved to a temporary site, south of the flightline, but with the F-35 era beginning at Hill, Jolly said the new fire station is necessary for “initial operational capability” for the jet at Hill. IOC means the jet is ready for its first stages of operation.
“With our increased operations out here on the flightline as we bring in the new (F-35) weapons system, we had to make sure we have the capabilities to provide protection to our airmen and equipment,” Jolly said.
The new station will include bigger bays and more of them to hold the larger firetrucks that will be used for F-35s. The proximity to the flightline, where the jets are stored, maintained and where they take off and land, is also key, Jolly said.
Jolly said the new station has been Hill’s No. 1 military construction priority since he began commanding the 75th ABW in July 2014. The funding for the project was initially authorized in the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, but the project wasn’t funded and awarded until February of this year. Jolly credited Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, for getting the funding reprogrammed.
“What we spend on national security is simply not enough,” Bishop said Nov. 10 at Hill. “It’s significant to have these types of facilities available. There are billions of dollars worth of assets on this base (and) there are people on this base. This facility will protect them.”
Northern Construction was awarded the contract by the Army Corps of Engineers through the Small Business Administration’s Business Development Program. The Ogden-based Northern Construction will design and build the crash rescue facility. The project is expected to be completed by late 2016.