New firefighting rig for Parkrose station shown, praised – and questioned

See the new Portland Fire & Rescue rig called a ‘quint’, billed as two firefighting rigs rolled into one …

The new with the old are on display in Portland Fire & Rescue Station 2’s parking lot – the new “Quint 2”, along with the old Truck 2 and Engine 2 that it replaces.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
During a conversation with a Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) lieutenant in April, the question “What’s new?” drew a stronger than expected response.

“Look for the Bureau to be adding a new vehicle, called a ‘quint’,” was the reply. “They say it is like a fire engine and truck, rolled into one. Some firefighters say it’s a rig that does neither very well – and will cut the number of firefighters in that station in half.”

An engine has a water tank, a heavy-duty water pump, and large supply of water lines (hoses), ladders, and tools. A truck carries vehicle-mounted aerial ladder that, in Portland’s bureau, extends to 105 feet, and firefighting tools like roof-cutting saws, smoke evacuation fans – and a set of Holmatro Rescue equipment used to cut open smashed vehicles.

With a pump, water tank, and 105’ aerial ladder, Portland Fire’s new “quintuple combination pumper” is ready for service.

The quint, short for “quintuple combination pumper” is designed to serve both as an engine and as a ladder truck. The National Fire Protection Association requirements a piece of apparatus, designated to function as a quint, includes providing:

  • Fire pump – with minimum capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute;
  • Aerial device – an aerial ladder with a permanently installed waterway;
  • Water tank – with a minimum capacity of 300 gallons;
  • Equipment storage – with at least 40 cubic feet of enclosed compartments to hold rescue tools and other gear;
  • Hose storage – a minimum of 30 cubic feet of storage area for 2.5 inch or larger fire hose;
  • Two preconnected fire hoses – providing ready-to-use 1.5 inch hose lines;
  • Ground ladders – a minimum of 85 feet of ground ladders, including at least two extension ladders
  • One roof ladder
  • One attic ladder
  • Suction hose – at least 15 feet of soft suction hose to take in water from a fire hydrant or 20 feet of hard suction hose for drafting water.

The Portland Fire Bureau’s new quint, built by Pierce Manufacturing, as it was presented on display at a media event held on August 26 at PF&R Station 2 in Parkrose, appeared to meet these specifications.

Adding new apparatus will help modernize the Fire Bureau, says Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

“I became the new Fire Commissioner a couple of months ago,” said Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, opening the press conference. “I knew that some of my priorities were to help this Bureau become a more efficient and modern. This, while continuing to be effective in keeping Portlanders safe.”

Saltzman continued, “I am pleased to have you see the new quint. The quint is a fire truck, plus so much more.  It is an advancement in how the Fire Bureau does its work, offering both function and savings.”

The new RRV trucks, deployed at many Portland fire stations, contains medical emergency response equipment – as well as the crew’s turnouts and breathing gear, Deputy Chief John Nohr points out.

Saltzman said that the Bureau is also putting a “Rapid Response Vehicle” (RRV) at many of the fire stations, an SUV outfitted for medical emergency responses.

“The RRV provides a way to make a more economical response to the many calls the Bureau has for emergency medical service. This combination of apparatus is all about making the Fire Bureau more nimble, efficient, and modern.”

Saltzman said the Bureau will be evaluating the city’s two quints “every few months to see if they are a good fit for Portland”. The lease payment of $100,000 each is being funded through the $72 million fire bond passed by voters in November of 2010.

PF&R Fire Chief Erin Janssens says she has confidence in Quint 2, Portland’s newest major piece of firefighting apparatus.

Then, Fire Chief Erin Janssens stepped up to the podium. “Our job is to protect people, property, and the environment. We also have another job, and that is protecting taxpayer money. Responding to every type of emergency imaginable requires incredible problem-solving skills for our firefighters.

“Through a series of tough budget cuts, it also requires some difficult problem-solving, also, for the City leaders to maintain critical resources as we re-examined the Bureau for inefficiencies,” Janssens began. “As a team we look for efficiencies to keep us lean, without sacrificing the high level of service that we provide.”

After describing the specification of a quint, Janssens noted that the Bureau is “trying out” the units at Station 2 – and additionally, at Station 8 in North Portland.

Unlike any standard fire engine or truck, this quint has both a powerful water pump (engineering control station is on the left) and (right) a complete set of Holmatro Rescue tools.

Responding to a reporter’s question about how the quint will save money, Janssens said it was by way of crew consolidation. In other words, these stations will go from having an eight-person crew down to four firefighters.

“We chose these two stations because of their strategic locations, and because the call volume could be supported by one crew,” Janssens replied.

A TV reporter brought up the fact that Portland Firefighters Association President Alan Ferschweiler has been repeating complaints from other unions, that implementing a quint compromises public safety.

“If I had my way, in an ideal world, we would have a fire truck, a fire engine, and an RRV in every one of our fire 30 stations across the city,” explained Janssens. “But, doing so would cost us probably another $35 million. With limited resources this is the most equitable response, citywide.”

Reporters kept hammering Janssens and Saltzman about the potential danger of having too few firefighters responding to a house ablaze.

“It’s the same as if a Station’s engine were out on a medical call, when a fire call came in,” Janssens said. “There might be a slight delay for the last crew to arrive at the fire, but not the first.”

PF&R Division Chief Duane Bray checks for messages on the Mobile Data Terminal inside a Rapid Response Vehicle.

As they walked out to the display area, Janssens and Division Chief Duane Bray talked with East Portland News about how the Fire Bureau dispatches apparatus to house fires, regardless of how many crew members are located in a given fire station.

“The closest four engine companies and one truck crew are dispatched to any structure fire,” commented Bray. “This means that apparatus and crews, from at least three fire stations, are dispatched to each fire call.”

Firefighters on duty at Station 2 chose not to comment regarding the crew reduction, or about the new apparatus, at the press conference.

© 2013 David F. Ashton~ East Portland News

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