Portland Fire & Rescue
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News Releases
Portland Street Response Begins Training its First Team in Pilot - 01/11/21

Note for media: please subscribe to Portland Street Response on Flash Alerts to receive updates from the program in addition to following them on Twitter at: @PDXStResponse

Portland Street Response (PSR), the innovative non-police response championed by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty to assist people experiencing houselessness or a behavioral/mental health crisis, kicked off its first day with its pilot team on Monday, January 11.

The team consists of a program manager, a firefighter/paramedic, a mental health clinician, and two community health workers. You can find out more about the team here: https://www.portland.gov/streetresponse/meet-team. Portland Street Response is housed within Portland Fire & Rescue.  “Thank you to the many people who have worked exceedingly hard to get us to this important day,” says Fire Chief Sara Boone. “The Fire Service has always been nimble in order to respond to the emergency needs of our communities. The launch of Portland Street Response is the latest chapter of the fire service story that builds off our history in emergency medical response. I’m excited to see this team hit the streets in its pilot form so we can better learn how to help those experiencing houselessness or mental health crises.”

The month-long training program consists of modules such as Peer Support 101; Mental Health First Aid classes focused on adults and youth; Crisis De-escalation and Scene Safety; Suicidality and Risk Assessment, as well as nuts and bolts training on things such as radio usage and dispatch protocols. The team will also train with members of the CAHOOTS team from Eugene (CAHOOTS is the groundbreaking program on which PSR is modeled.) The Oregonian reported that more than half of arrests police made in 2017 were of homeless people (just 3% of the population). This program will seek to aid those living on the street in times of crisis rather than routing them through the criminal justice system.

The first part of the pilot will operate in the Lents area. Lents was designated as the first pilot location because it has fewer existing resources and services than other parts of Portland; additionally, the volume of potential PSR 911 calls in Lents is outpacing the growth of calls across the rest of the city. This team will work Monday through Friday 10 am-6 pm. After six months, a second pilot team will be added to cover the same area but respond at night and on the weekends. By 2022, the program will ramp up to include more teams and coverage to locations across the city.

“When I ran for office in 2016, I knew that there was a better way to help people on the street and to respond to mental health crises without involving police. After years of working with the community to come up with a better solution to assist people who need help instead of handcuffs, executing on this promise is one of most exciting moments of my time in City Hall,” says Fire Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty. “This day would not have come without the push and passion of so many people. Thank you to Chief Boone and Portland Fire & Rescue for enthusiastically stepping forward with this concept, our labor partners who are working with us to create something new from scratch, the team at Street Roots for inspiring us, the community for offering their insights, and Mayor Wheeler for his support and collaboration. This project is a marathon, not a sprint, and I thank everyone for their patience while we build something from the ground up. I’m excited to see what we will discover during this pilot program that will inform how we make this the best program we can for the whole city.”

During the pilot period, community members in Lents may request Street Response, but 911 dispatchers have a list of questions they will ask to determine which responder is most appropriate to send: Police, Fire, Portland Street Response, or AMR ambulance service. If the call fits the criteria for Portland Street Response to respond, dispatchers will alert the team and send them to the call.

Program Manager Robyn Burek says: “We’re excited to start training to get our team on the ground and start responding to calls. This project is a collaborative effort between many bureaus and agencies; this pilot is our opportunity to learn and finesse the program so it can serve constituents effectively when we roll it out to the rest of the city.”

For TV: There will be b-roll available for your use on Wednesday.

Portland Fire & Rescue Begins Firefighter Vaccinations - 12/30/20

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) received 1,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination today and will begin vaccinating Firefighter/EMTs and Paramedics starting tomorrow morning, December 31, 2020.

The vaccine delivery was coordinated by the Health Department at Multnomah County, which is tasked with setting priorities for vaccination within the county. Portland Firefighter/EMTs and Paramedics, along with other emergency medical providers in Multnomah County, are considered front-line health care workers and as such, are categorized as Phase 1a vaccine recipients. PF&R crews have responded to hundreds of 911 calls to the homes of people experiencing sometimes very advanced symptoms of COVID-19.

“Four weeks ago, the Federal Government began the largest vaccination distribution in US history, and Firefighters and other EMS providers will play a critical part in the massive effort of widescale population vaccination. For the last three weeks PF&R staff have been working non-stop to meet the state’s enrollment and application deadline,” says Fire Chief Sara Boone. “Immediate vaccination of our crews will help us remain available to safely respond to all emergency needs, including COVID-19 responses. Like many other fire departments and EMS providers, we have not been immune to the spread of SARSCoV-2 amongst our ranks and throughout our bureau.”

“I am extremely proud of the work Portland Fire & Rescue has continued to do during the COVID-19 outbreak. Over the holiday period, PF&R staff have worked tirelessly to organize a complex vaccination campaign,” says Fire Commissioner JoAnn Hardesty. “A special thanks to PF&R’s Occupational Nurse/EMS Program Manager Janet Woodside, County EMS Medical Director Dr. Jui, and Deputy Chief of Training Tim Matthews. Together, they assembled and led a multi-disciplinary Vaccination Task Force that included employees from across the bureau to ensure PF&R met the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention requirements; state vaccination provider mandates; and establishment of a vaccination hub for our public safety partners.”

Media Access:

Coverage of the first day of vaccinations will be offered with the use of a pool video camera provided by KGW news, a pool still photographer from The Oregonian newspaper, and pool mp3 audio file by KXl radio . The content will be made available to media partners by noon on December 31. Video content will be coordinated by KGW news. Still photographs and MP3 audio recording of the event will be provided by email request to einfo@portlandoregon.gov">fireinfo@portlandoregon.gov.

***Update***Investigators Asking For Public Help With String of NW Portland Fires - 12/26/20

***An arrest was made in this case by Portland Fire & Rescue's - Fire Investigations Unit.***  

Andre Williams has been taken into custody and charged with the following-

  • Arson I
  • Arson II- two counts
  • Attempted Arson II
  • Reckless Burning

***This case is still currently under investigation. Further details will be released, as needed.***


Portland Fire & Rescue investigators are asking for the public’s help with any information related to a series of fires that happened early this morning. Downtown crews were sent to these fires between the hours of 1am and 4am today. Specific details are not being shared regarding the ongoing investigation but what is being shared is the time of day and the area which is NW 17th Ave to NW 23rd Ave and between Nw Lovejoy St. to W Burnside St.

These fires were relatively easy for crews to handle but they appeared to be attempts at burning down both commercial buildings and occupied apartment buildings. A suspect has been arrested and investigators feel confident that the threat to residents in the area has been handled. Now they need establish what exactly happened in these early morning hours.

If anyone observed strange activity or have photos or videos to share with investigators they would like you to call their tipline 503-823-INFO (4636).

Photo by Greg Muhr
Photo by Greg Muhr
Arson Suspect from SE Alder Morning Apartment Fire Booked - 12/23/20

At 2:22 AM on December 23, dispatchers at the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) received several phone calls indicating there was an apartment fire at 16124 SE Alder St. When Portland Fire & Rescue and Gresham Fire units arrived, they found heavy smoke coming from the a two-story apartment complex and people frantically trying to escape the building. 

Engine crews focused on establishing a source of water at a nearby hydrant and while two-person crews with hose lines sought to locate and extinguish the fire. Ladder truck crews had their hands full, first with getting ladders to balconies after witnessing residents jumping. Truck crews then split duties between searching for additional occupants inside the complex and going to the roof to cut important heat and smoke ventilation holes.

It is believed that in total four people jumped from their apartment balconies to escape the rapidly increasing smoke conditions. One adult was able to gather two children, one cat and a dog before they all jumped from the second story balcony, according to their own account. Surprisingly, no injuries were reported although several occupants required the shelter of a bus provided by local partner Tri-Met to keep them out of the cold weather. 

Fire investigators began their investigation shortly after the fire was out and concluded that most of the damage had been isolated to one apartment. Closed (versus open) exterior doors slowed the fire’s progress to other units. Investigators determined that the primary occupant of the apartment was a person of interest, but they were not found at the scene of the fire.

After compiling information from the scene and testimony from witnesses, investigators determined the fire to be arson. Gary Lee Hickey, 40, was located and arrested by Portland Police Officers and was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center with the charge of arson in the first degree. The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office will make a determination on charges before the scheduled arraignment tomorrow.