It happened: Portland fire truck pulls over drunk driver

We thought we knew Portland Fire & Rescue’s former spokesman pretty well, but this old story was new to us! See why Station 2 in Parkrose was packed with well-wishers, on Lt. Allen Oswalt’s last day …

Portland Fire & Rescue Senior Inspector Kim Kosmas gives the Bureau’s retiring spokesman, Lt. Allen Oswalt, a big hug at his retirement party.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The parking lot was filled to capacity with all kinds of vehicles, including fire rigs of all descriptions. It was clear that a festive party was underway, in the large training room of the Parkrose Neighborhood’s Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Training Station #2.

There was no sadness on the faces of the partygoers on July 15. After all, the event was to honor the lighthearted Lt. Allen Oswalt – as coworkers, friends, relatives, and even media came by to celebrate his retirement, after serving the residents of the City of Portland for just shy of three decades.

Lt. Allen Oswalt gives his last television interview to this KOIN Local 6 reporter.

Portland Fire & Rescue Chief John Klum told us at the party, “Allen Oswalt really became the ‘face and voice’ of Portland Fire and Rescue. Although I’m happy for him as he moves on to a new phase of his life, part of me is already missing him. He has developed such a strong reputation of credibility – not only with all the media folk, but with all the firefighters. He’s been a true representative of Portland Fire & Rescue.”

Because Klum said he’d worked with him for quite some time, we asked if any story, featuring Oswalt, might have gone unreported. “Well, he’s the only person in our agency who successfully pulled over a drunk driver, while driving a fire engine!”

This commutative fire ax is presented to Lt. Oswalt in appreciation of his service as a firefighter, Lieutenant and Public Information Officer. Yes, that’s a photo of a young Firefighter Oswalt from a yearbook.

The ‘Drunk driver story’
“I think it was about 1995,” Oswalt began. “I’m driving the rig, two o’clock in the morning; on our way back from a drug lab cleanup as a member of Station 7’s HazMat Team.

“I see a car in my rearview mirrors driving very fast and erratically. He passes us, and just misses our bumper doing about 60 mph. I immediately think ‘he’s drunk’. An officer coordinates with 9-1-1, relaying our location,” Oswalt related.

“It’s all we can do to keep up with the guy, and we’re driving one of the fastest fire engines in the fleet. We go south on I-5; exit at Portland Boulevard. He stops at the light, and then takes off. I turned on our emergency lights, and he pulls over. We boxed him in; so he backs up – right into a police cruiser that had pulled up behind him. I don’t think he could hardly believe that he’d been busted – by the crew of a fire truck!”

The always-playful Oswalt seemed to really enjoy destroying his PIO pager. “It wasn’t the real pager,” he says, “but a broken one. I don’t want to leave the impression I destroyed Bureau property!”

Future plans not yet set
About his career with PF&R, Oswalt commented. “There are so many good things. But the numbe- one thing is the support we get from the community.”

What’s next for Oswalt? “I just want to take a little bit of time for me, my wife, and my grandkids. You know I love hunting and fishing and skiing – but I can’t do that every day. I suspect I’ll find another job that I really enjoy. It won’t be about money, it will be about fun.”

Lt. Allen Oswalt hands over the PIO pager to the new PF&R spokesman, Firefighter Paul Corah.

Meet the new face of Portland Fire & Rescue
Portland Fire & Rescue’s new Public Information Officer is Firefighter Paul Corah, Chief John Klum announced.

“Corah brings a unique combination of firefighting, communications, and community outreach experience to this important and highly-visible position,” Klum said. “I’m confident that Corah will prove to be as great an asset to the media and public for their information needs as he is to Portland Fire.”

Corah told us he’s a long-time Portland resident, and comes to the job with more than 29 years of firefighting experience. He’s been the bureau’s liaison to the Fire Police Disability and Retirement Board since 2008, and served as a Vice President of the Portland Firefighters Association for six years.

“I look forward to this new assignment,” Corah said. “I’m proud to be representing Portland Fire & Rescue.”

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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