Firefighters make safety ‘house calls’

Discover why Portland Fire & Rescue has started this new pilot program … and how you can have one at your home …

Portland Fire & Rescue Public Education Officer Alice Johnson, and Fire Inspector Ron Rouse, gather equipment to perform the new “Home Safety Check Program” in the Parkrose Heights neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

From time to time, all commercial buildings get called upon by a Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Inspector, for fire code enforcement.

“But, until now, staff from our Bureau never visits homes for this purpose,” said PF&R Public Education Officer Alice Johnson, as we walked together to the front door of an outer East Portland home in the Parkrose Heights neighborhood.

“Yet, it is in homes where we have most of our fires,” Johnson told East Portland News. “Residences are also where we have the greatest number of fire-related injuries and fatalities.”

Fire Inspector Ron Rouse points out the potential danger of having a non-GFI extension cord going into a bathroom.

The idea to start a “Home Safety Check Program” was supported by City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who gained oversight of the Fire Bureau last summer, and started the program last fall.

“Saltzman is really behind the program to see how well it can work,” Johnson said. “That is, to have our firefighters go into the homes and greet the residents, and, at the same time, gain a better understanding about the type of residential buildings that are in our coverage areas.”

PF&R’s Alice Johnson checks a clothes-dryer vent, and finds it free of lint.

PF&R Fire Inspector and Public Safety Officer Ron Rouse accompanied Johnson as they walked room to room during the inspection of the Byram residence, looking for potential fire and safety hazards.

Their checklist also included checking:

  • Street address visibility,
  • Overloaded electrical outlets,
  • Functional smoke alarms,
  • Fire escape routes, and
  • Clean dryer vents.


In the child’s bedroom, Fire Inspector Ron Rouse checks a smoke detector and exults, “it’s working!”

“We advise residents about smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and other safety matters, but we do not write up violations,” Johnson said. “In fact, we install new smoke alarms if, and where, they are needed – at no charge.”

At the end of the inspection, Johnson and Rouse went over the checklist of safety recommendations they’d made with the Byrams, and left them a copy.

“Ultimately, we’d like to see a reduction in residential fires and fire fatalities,” Johnson said on the way back to their truck. “Especially, doing free smoke-alarm installations; they’re really important for reducing home fatalities.”

PF&R’s Rouse and Johnson go over the results of their survey with homeowners David Byram and Eryn Byram.

To schedule a free home safety check, call (503) 823-3487 and leave a message with your name, address, and phone number. Or, send an e-mail to, and provide your name, address, and phone number. PF&R will get back to you to schedule an appointment.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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