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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Portland fire bureau is a money pit

So says Willy Week, and it's got them dead to rights. And the story doesn't even mention the budget-busting custom fireboats, which are straight out of a Batman movie.

Let's hope the next custodian of that department does better than Admiral Randy and Opie Sten, neither of whom should have been put in charge of serious money of any kind. But can you imagine Nutsy Smith at the helm? We shudder.

Meanwhile, as usual the Willies paint Rip Van Saltzman as the courageous watchdog. Give us a break. That guy is the ultimate personification of Portland City Hall. And that ain't good.

Comments (25)

So, would you like a photo of the Portland Fire commuter car that is always parked on my running route in a certain Oregon city approximately 60 miles from downtown Portland?

Nice timing, just as the A-holes are leaving office. If it had been a fire, it would have been burned, decayed, deserted, and rebuilt by now.

I'm still confused why when 97% of the PFD calls are medical, they still all have to pile into the $1M fire truck and ride up and park behind the AMR ambulance.

Heck, I'm curious how they get the thing thru the drive-in at McDonald's

BTW - Just let AMR do the medical stuff, we have too many fire people for the actual fires now.

Wait a minute, 67,191 calls in a year? That's like 185 a day. How is that number not off by an order of magnitude?

I'm still confused why when 97% of the PFD calls are medical, they still all have to pile into the $1M fire truck and ride up and park behind the AMR ambulance.

My sense is that they just send everyone, and sometimes it happens that PFD arrives first, sometimes it happens that they arrive second. If they knew in advance that they'd arrive second and that they wouldn't be needed, obviously they wouldn't go. But hindsight is always 20/20.

"My sense is that they just send everyone"

According to WW, AMR usually beats them and goes on every call also. I understand the urgency, but 4 * $100K/yr guys.

The one that got me was like 12 PFD people for 6-7 hours worth saving a kitten from a drain pipe. They can't be that busy.

My understanding is that they send the whole squad, because they cannot split up the unit. They send a truck or engine (I never can remember which is which) on medical calls, so they don't have to go back to the station to get the truck if they are called to a fire while out on another call.

Finally, I believe Portland has 30 fire stations. That means each station average 6 calls every 24 hours, which seems likely.

Remember, many of the medical calls are traffic accidents with gasoline spills, trapped occupants and other things AMR is not equipped to handle.

Gasoline spills from auto accidents?? Extremely rare.

A better number to know would be how many of the 97% of medical calls to fire fighters contribute any aid. Does AMR and PFB have a tug of war with the drunk bum’s arm while each side tries to take a pulse?

I do appreciate these journalists having a last bout of integrity and actually being a watch-dog. I salute those who go out on their feet.

Hey Wally, Maybe letting the PFB Union President be the Commissioner in Charge wasn't such a a swell idea after all?

WWeek forgot to mention the practice of letting PFB employees nearing retirement to serve as "acting" captain, batallion chief, or deputy chief while the boss is on vacation to boost their retirement pay.

The deployment of a ladder truck for a medical call is inexcusable: especially when 97% of their responses aren't fires.
If they lacked the proper vehicles, they certainly had the time and money to make the adjustments.

I could have taken dozens of pictures of the hook and ladder truck responding to slip and fall injuries in SW Portland over the past 15 years.

A friend who's the chief of a small suburban fire department laughed when I asked him why large fire trucks go out for every medical emergency. He said the fire department needs to show the public that it's of use.

Can't they go by train ?

Thanks to the various initiatives to improve safety (NEC changes, NFPA analyses, safer materials, and so on) a structure fire is an infrequent event. The fire departments are, like it or not, going through a reinvention of purpose. You're seeing them roll on medical events and car crashes in order to stay relevant.

Unfortunately "fire department" is a name firmly in our memories, and there's no catchy alternative vocabulary to describe the emergency services they provide.

Reinvention of purpose is appropriate. No fire truck is needed for most events. Keep the name but adjust the response.

Read Torrid Joe's response to the story. Is he on the payroll?

"Is he on the payroll?"

Why, yes, he is. He seems to get frequent breaks to blog, so he has to be a city employee.

Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue has experimented with using a "medical car" - a Toyota FJ Cruiser, with a single paramedic, to go on daytime medical calls. The vehicle was chosen because it has all-wheel drive capability, and a patient on a backboard can fit inside of it.

TVF&R also has considered putting paramedics on motorcycles.

There's a reason TVF&R receives accounting awards and has a high level of service for one of the lowest tax rates in the state. It also is very apolitical and simply goes about its business with little fanfare or attention.

Portland would be wise to pay attention to its wiser neighbor to the west. Portland seems to lavish the politics and attention. Sometimes, just doing the job you're asked to do is all we want.

Jack, what % of your property taxes goes toward police/fireman pensions? I bet @ least 15%... a big chunk of change that seems to be increasing...

If The Hose Guy could get one, he would undoubtedly want a hi-rail fire truck to run on the streetcar and light rail tracks.

If Nutsy can't take their money, drink their whisky, screw their women, and still vote against them in the morning, I don't know who can.

It appears the Admiral put out an All-Hands alarm to defend the status quo in Willy Weeks' comments section.

If the Fireman's Lobby can't defend the comments section, nobody can.

To recap the insanity: Lots of fire stations, no fires. So fire trucks are acting as emergency medical responders. There's no push to create more public ambulance stations. None at all.


About why the ambulance and firetruck both show up to a 911 call: It's my understanding that it's a division-of-labor issue. The firefighters are the guys who go into the house and get the sick/injured person, and then the ambulance guys take them to the hospital. I don't know if there are regulations about that, or if it's a union thing, or what.

Jack, what % of your property taxes goes toward police/fireman pensions?

Thoroughly covered here. It's 24% of what Portland collects, 10% of property tax overall.

What's really sad is nobody in government seems to realize that taxpayer revenue is a ZERO SUM game.

There are only X amount of dollars coming into public coffers each year, and if the PFB wastes several million on redundant equipment or overtime, they won't have it to spend on something that actually benefits public safety. While tax revenues can increase over time EVEN PORTLAND Voters will eventually say NO to more property tax increases. So the millions wasted by the PFB aren't available to be wasted (or spent judiciously) by PPS or Metro, Tri-Met, Multnomah County, etc.

There are only so many dollars available, and the tipping point (where raising additional revenues leads to declining population or property values) is near.

Those who are dialing 911 "50 to 100" times a year should be transferred to some kind of care facility or (if they're just abusing the system) cut off.

As an alternative, they could pay something for their excessive use of this public service, but I doubt there is any ability to pay for most of them.

It would be interesting to see what percentage of non-payers at AMR or OHSU are the 50 times a year folks.

It's very high Mr T, unless they can eventually get on SSD/SSI, then the government is billed. Either way society pays.

The Portland Fire Department is the last bastion of American Teamsters of yesteryear. The Union protects their interests beyond what should be permissible by today's current economic and political interests. Randy Leonard? His protection of the bureau is the ultimate form of government corruption. Heroes? Please explain the time spent in lazy boys( present at each station), state of the art entertainment systems, and video gaming. Portland DOES NOT TRANSPORT so ultimately AMR must be at all medical calls that require transport. There are only 2 rescue squads that can transport. What about the 2+ million spent on a state-of-the-art ( in 2006/2007) mobile command vehicle housed at Station 24 used only for joy rides? Really- if any part of Portland needs to be reformed, it's the Fire Bureau. It's stealing government funding that our schools and court systems badly needs.

About why the ambulance and firetruck both show up to a 911 call: It's my understanding that it's a division-of-labor issue. The firefighters are the guys who go into the house and get the sick/injured person

I'm not sure this is accurate - they both carry Paramedic/EMT certification.

For many years I lived in McMinnville which ran their own ambulance service as part of the fire department.

Even in McMinnville - a standard medical call resulted in a two vehicle response - Rescue 7 (later Rescue 1), and one of the three Medic units (ambulance). The Rescue unit was a jack-of-all-trades vehicle that could handle vehicle accidents and very small fires and carried tools and of course paramedic equipment.

In the few times I've had to call for paramedic assistance (in the Portland metro area) the ambulance crews most definitely came in the house, and the "firemen" assisted in loading the patient into the ambulance.

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