Portland Fire & Rescue - Chief Boone Leading The Way

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Portland Fire & Rescue - Chief Boone Leading The Way
by Jack Kerfoot

Firefighting in Portland has a long, proud and storied history. Firefighting services in Portland were first established in 1851 by Thomas Dryer, founder of The Oregonian newspaper. The city's first firefighting department consisted of 37 volunteers with just a single hand pump.


Today, Portland Fire & Rescue has over 750 permanent employees, 28 fire engines and 10 trucks protecting our city. Chief Sara Boone was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to explain the challenges facing the Portland Fire and Rescue.


Chief Boone shared her story of growing up in Portland. As a young child, she frequently heard negative connotations associated either with race or with gender. In university, she thought her career path would be as a high school teacher. However, she heard that Fire & Rescue was recruiting women and underrepresented groups and entered the apprenticeship program. She quickly realized this was a career that spoke to her heart.


The National Fire Protection Association reported that in 1980, our nation's fire departments responded to 10.8 million emergency calls, which included 3 million fire emergencies. In 2013, our nation's fire departments responded to 31.6 million emergency calls, which included only 1.2 emergencies.


Chief Boone explained that the vast majority of the calls to Portland Fire and Rescue today are medical emergencies. Training for Portland fire fighters has also changed over the past twenty years. Fire fighters today must be trained not only in the latest techniques in structural and chemical fires, but also wild fires in rural areas.


Chief Boone was particularly excited about a new response team pilot program. Currently, Portland Fire and Rescue send multiple vehicles to any 911 medical call, which is expensive and a drain on limited resources. The pilot program would send an emergency medical technical (EMT) with a mental health professional to people experiencing a non-emergency mental-health crisis. The pilot program will begin in the spring of 2020 in Fire District 11 in East Portland.


In my opinion, Portland is fortunate to have Chief Sara Boone leading Portland Fire & Rescue. She is also a role model to young women and people of color that there is a future for them in the fire and rescue departments across our nation.


This article was reprinted with permission from Jack Kerfoot. Jack is a candidate for Portland Commissioner.


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