PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — After 12 years, Portland Fire Station 23 is back in business — and members of the Southeast Portland neighborhood are thrilled.
The Portland Firefighters Association and the Southeast Portland Neighborhood Associations held a community barbecue to mark the re-opening of the station — with a fully staffed crew.
The city closed the station at SE 13th and Powell in 2011 due to budget cuts. The station sat mostly vacant until 2017 when they added a 2-person rescue team — but had no way to operate their 4-person engine, said Portland Firefighters Assocation Local 43 President Isaac McLennan.
“Every community besides this one that we’re in right now has a four-person crew, on a fire engine, ready to respond, that can reach almost every single part of Portland within five minutes, except this one,” he told KOIN 6 News. “We’re not able to effectively save someone’s life or rescue them if they’re trapped inside of a burning building if this station is not operational as it is right now.”
A federally funded grant secured by Portland’s Fire Bureau and union earlier this year made it possible to fully staff this station. And that, McLennan said, may ease the mind of those living in Southeast Portland. For more than a decade they have been forced to rely on slower responses from neighboring Portland stations when calling 911.
Fire data shows that from 2010-2017, the call volume in the area increased by 35% — from 983 calls to more than 1300.
“A structure fire doubles in size every minute and that’s really scary. Especially, when you’re talking about — I mean, people say seconds count, they’re not kidding,” McLennan said. “Especially when it comes to cardiac arrest. Your survivability goes dramatically down after 5 minutes.”
On this day, the Southeast Portland community celebrated their regained ability to call 911 and get life-saving help within 5 minutes. McLennan said the ongoing fight for Station 23 and the people it serves is far from over.
“This community, we’re celebrating the fact that, yay, you’ve got your safety. You’ve got your safety net, your fire department is ready to go and ready to respond to your home or your family,” he said. “But unfortunately, we’re going to need your help.”
The grant funds are expected to last only 3 years. City staffing funds are set to expire in June 2024. McLennan said to keep the station running the communityu will likely have to join their firefighters in advocating to the Portland City Council for permanency.
“This station should not always be on the chopping block. It needs to be funded. Like every other fire station in the City of Portland, the Hosford-Abernathy and the Brooklyn neighborhoods, they’re counting on the City Council to make sure that the funding is there so their families can be safe.”