Lents firefighters find themselves on budget-cutting block

You’ll be astonished to see how public safety in outer East Portland could take a disastrous turn backwards, as city leaders make cuts at PF&R’s Lents Station 11 to fund other programs …

When seconds count, both PF&R’s Rescue 11 and Engine 11, and their firefighters, respond to emergency incidents. But now, part of Lents Station 11’s crew may be chopped in budget cuts.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Many may remember how, not that long ago, the budgeting process for the City of Portland was open and transparent – with meetings held in all corners of the city. Now, it seems, the way the Portland City Council spends your tax dollars is pretty much a closed process.

When word leaked out that Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) would be required to make budget cuts – and that one of them would be axing six firefighters at PF&R’s Lents Station 11, the city’s fourth-busiest (out of 31) fire stations, located in the heart of Lents Town Center – neighbors said they were dismayed and furious.

The six PF&R firefighters who operate Rescue 11 – two each from three rotating shifts – may ripped away from their Lents Town Center station, due to “budget cuts”.

“I was really upset to learn that the Portland City Council is actually considering cutting firefighters – and specifically those who crew Rescue 11,” said 14-year Lents neighbor Penny Wilson.

Rescue 11 looks like a big ambulance; and in fact, it can serve that purpose. But, the crews assigned to it are also fully-certified, qualified, and trained firefighters, as well as being paramedics.

“Although some might not know it, the crew taking out Rescue 11 are far more than glorified gurney pushers,” Wilson remarked, and she’s right.

Often, these crews are dispatched to fires, along with Engine Company 11 firefighters, performing search-and-rescue while other crew members are pulling water lines and starting to fight the fire. So, instead of having only four crew members responding – all six firefighters may be dispatched to an incident.

“Portland Fire is equally as important as are the police; one hopes you’ll never need them – but when you do, you need them, right now,” Wilson told East Portland News.

She went on to point out that many of the residents who live south of SE Foster Road are seniors. “So, when we need fire and medical services, we need it quickly,” Wilson contended. “Just today, Rescue 11 was called to help a neighbor across the street.”

Crews assigned to Rescue 11 are full-fledged firefighters, trained to rescue people from burning buildings as well as to put out fires.

“Our city leaders talk about providing ‘equity’; yet – although Lents is a minority-rich community – we’re about to be shortchanged on emergency first-responder services,” Wilson reflected. “Because we’re a working-class neighborhood, and don’t have big money behind us to influence the ‘electeds’, once again, we’re treated like we’re disposable.”

Portland Firefighters Association Local 43 President Alan Ferschweiler was not available for comment at deadline, but he told reporters last week that if the Station 11 budget weren’t restored, fire and medical emergency services – and response times – would be negatively impacted.

If people like you don’t take action, the services provided by the firefighters riding Rescue 11 may soon … fade away.

Take action, now
Don’t hope for someone else to advocate for keeping a full complement of firefighters at outer East Portland stations, if you deplore this decision.

Send a kindly-worded, polite email expressing your concern to the Commissioner of Portland Fire & Rescue, Jo Ann Hardesty at joann@portlandoregon.gov. While you’re at it, send a copy to Mayor Ted Wheeler as well, at mayorwheeler@portlandoregon.gov

© 2021 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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