Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

The Chicago Fire Department chief responsible for the city’s airports was relieved of command, and about 300 firefighters will be retrained amid a federal investigation into how firefighters are certified and assigned to specialty airport fire rigs.

Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Charles Roy, who was in charge of the firefighting operations at O’Hare and Midway airports since November, has not been reassigned yet.

Tim Sampey, who was promoted to deputy fire commissioner after overseeing the airport operations, will split responsibility for the airports with Roy’s deputy until the vacancy can be filled. Sampey ran the airport units for almost a decade. 

The Federal Aviation Administration opened an investigation in July after someone reported that unqualified firefighters were staffing the federally mandated, specialized aircraft rescue vehicles at O’Hare and Midway airports. Separately, the city inspector general’s office is investigating whether any city rules were broken.

The city retained a Denver-based law firm to help with the investigation. That firm has done $3.3 million worth of work for the city on regulatory matters related to the airports, transportation, and other litigation since 2006.

Firefighters assigned to O’Hare and Midway airports on regular engines and trucks will have to get recertified to drive on the airfield, and firefighters assigned to the crash rigs will need recertification to remain on those rigs.

The Chicago Department of Aviation is responsible for ensuring that firefighters are properly trained to drive on the airfields, but department training officers administer the airfield driving tests. Firefighters at the airports have to pass a written test after a 40-hour course and then have about a year to pass the driving test.

Firefighters that are certified to drive on the airfield have lucrative and relatively less demanding overtime opportunities, especially at O’Hare, where engines and a truck assigned to the airfield don’t typically respond off the field.

When the FAA opened its investigation in July, it asked the Fire Department for lists of personnel qualified to operate those rigs dating back to May.

The agency also asked for details of changes made by the Chicago Department of Aviation after the FAA notified them of the allegation, and asked whether the department found instances of unqualified members staffing the ARFF rigs.

thanks Scott