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Portland Fire and Rescue
Agency overview
Established 1851
Employees 699 uniformed
57 non-sworn support
Staffing Career
Fire chief Erin Janssens
EMS level ALS
Facilities and equipment
Stations 30
Engines 30
Trucks 9
Squads 3
Rescues 1
Fireboats 2

Portland Fire and Rescue (PF&R) is the principal fire suppression, prevention, and rescue agency of the City of Portland, the largest city in the U.S. state of Oregon. Portland Fire & Rescue is the largest fire protection and emergency medical services provider in the state of Oregon. Oversight of Portland's bureaus shifts among the five City Commissioners. Currently Mayor Charlie Hales has assigned the Fire Bureau to Commissioner Dan Saltzman.

Portland Fire and Rescue, whose mission is to "aggressively and safely protect life, property, and the environment," covers a jurisdiction of approximately 150 square miles containing more than 580,000 citizens.


Original volunteer department[edit]

PF&R has its origins in the year 1850. Seeing the need for a more organized firefighting force in the growing community, Oregonian editor Colonel Thomas Dryer began writing editorial pieces in the paper about the need for a volunteer firefighting force. Failing to see a group form, Dryer took the idea into his own hands and recruited a group of 37 men to volunteer for the first firefighting company in Portland; this group became known as the Pioneer Fire Engine Company No. 1. While only having a hand pump to fight fires with, Dryer desired to find funding for a steam engine for his company. In April 1851 Portland was incorporated into a city by the Oregon Territorial Legislature.[1] On May 6, 1851, Dryer offered his company's firefighting services to the City Council. The city council voted to approve Dryer's recommendation.[2] Despite the council's passage of a bill to purchase a steam engine for the company, it was never acquired due to mayor Hugh O'Bryant's refusal to sign the bill.[3]

A new city charter was adopted in 1852 that allowed the Portland to form a city fire department. In May of 1853, Dryer was appointed the Chief Warden in charge of the new fire department. A resolution was passed by the city council that stated:

“Resolved. That the whole city be a district for the organization of a Hook and Ladder company; and further, that all that portion of the city lying north of Washington street, be one district for the organization of an engine company and all that part of the city south of that street be another district for the same purpose.”


On August 1, 1853, the Vigilance Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 was formed, followed by the Willamette Engine Company No. 1, covering the southern district, on August 6 of the same year.[2] Willamette Engine Company No. 1 acquired an engine owned by future mayor of Portland, George W. Vaughn. The company was located on Southwest Morrison between 1st and 2nd Avenues. The Portland City Council purchased a hand pump for the company in 1856, which was later replaced by a 2nd Class Amos keag steam apparatus.[4] While these two company's together formed the Portland Fire Department, each company had it's own by-laws and constitution, and were in many ways operated as separate entities.[4]

On July 4, 1854, the volunteers of the Portland Fire Department displayed their new uniforms, black pantaloons, red shirts, black cravats, and navy caps. Due to their uniform shirts, people started referring to the firefighters as "redshirts," a name that stuck with them for some time.

In January 1856, the city council ordered that cisterns were to be built under the city streets, in order to provide a water source for the fire department. There were originally nine wooden cisterns throughout the city, measuring 15' by 9'. These proved to be difficult to upkeep, and the city began using brick for these cisterns.

An attempt had been made in 1853 to put together an engine company for the northern district, however that district never obtained an engine or engine house, and never became an operating company, leaving little historical information about them. As such, there was no engine company covering the northern district until the Multnomah Engine Company No. 2 was formed on November 26, 1856. Initially using Vaughn's small engine, money was later raised to purchase a Hunneman hand pump engine for this company.

The Chief Engineer position, previously the Chief Warden, was made a paid position in 1860.

In June 1859, the Columbia Engine Company No. 3 was created, followed by the Protection Engine Company No. 4 in November 1862, and then the Tiger Engine Company No. 5 in 1873.

Fire of 1873[edit]

While the city was going through a drought, on August 2, 1873, a fire broke out at the Hurgren and Shindler furniture shop at the corner of First & Taylor. The alarm bell at the Willamette Fire Company #1 was drowned out by the noise of the fire and not heard. The fire quickly spread, and twelve hours later, twenty-two blocks of the city had been burned. The cause of the fire was never determined, however it was suspected that arson was the cause. Due to the alarm not being heard, the city ordered a new alarm bell which could be heard as far away as Oregon City. In 1875 the system was replace by alarm boxes and engine gongs connected through telegraph wires.

In 1879 the members of the department's five companies totaled 375.[1]

Portland Paid Fire Department[edit]

In 1883 the Portland Fire Department, while still augmented by volunteers, became known as the Portland Paid Fire Department. In January of this year, the department submitted it first budget totaling $55,340 for the entire year, with $25,940 being for the annual salary for the department's 52 employees, which included a Chief Engineer, two Assistants, a Secretary and 48 firefighters in five companies.[5] Under this new name, the volunteer companies in the downtown area were replaced by full time firefighters, while the volunteers still responded to alarms and worked side by side with the full time staff. Unlike today, firefighters during this time did not work shifts and they rarely left or traveled far from their station houses; with many actually living in the fire station. Paid firefighters worked seven day weeks, getting only 12 hours off during an entire week.

The importance of volunteers expanded in 1891 when Portland consolidated with the cities of East Portland and Albina, more than doubling the size of the city.

In 1904 the department officially became a fully paid fire department, with the temporary firefighters being paid for their time served. Even still, some outlying areas in the city felt they needed additional protection, and continued to operate volunteer companies, with these companies being provided resources by the city fire department. Most of these volunteer companies were gone by the 1930s. The City of Portland provided the funds for the department to purchase their first fire boat, the George H. Williams in 1904.

By 1906 firefighters with the Portland Fire Department had begun wearing turnout gear. This year also saw Chief Engineer Campbell elected President of the Pacific Coast Fire Chief's Association. With the automobile becoming more available after the turn of the century, the department began purchasing motorized apparatus in 1909. 1911 saw the department purchase its last horse drawn piece of equipment, enabling the department to become completely motorized by 1920.

Due to the departments ranks being cut after the start of World War II, volunteer firefighting returned to Portland. While not part of the front line firefighting forces, auxiliary companies were created and given reserve status, with their own company numbers. Following the end of the War, the auxiliary forces expanded, having their own officers and chiefs through seven districts. When the city of Portland withdrew from the Federal Civil Defense Administration in 1963, all forms of volunteer firefighting in the city disappeared.

Fire Stations[edit]

Station Number Station Name Communities Served
Downtown Core
Old Town Chinatown
Parkrose/Portland Airport
Argay / Maywood Park / Parkrose
Northwest Pearl District
Northwest / Pearl District / Goose Hollow / Arlington Heights / Hillside
Portland State University
Downtown / South Portland / Homestead
Bridlemile / Hillsdale / Hayhurst
Northwest Industrial
Northwest Industrial
Mill Park
Mill Park / Hazelwood
Arbor Lodge / Kenton / Piedmont / Sunderland
Buckman / Kerns / Sunnyside / Laurelhurst / Richmond
South Burlingame / Collins View / Arnold Creek / John's Landing
Lloyd Center
Lloyd District / Sullivan's Gulch / Grant Park / Hollywood District / Eliot / Irvington
King / Sabin / Vernon / Alameda / Concordia / Sunderland / Woodlawn
Southwest Hills
Southwest Hills / Healy Heights
Hayden Island
Hayden Island / East Columbia / Bridgeton
Multnomah Village
Marshall Park / Markham / Far Southwest / West Portland Park / Multnomah / Ashcreek / Crestwood / Maplewood
Mount Tabor
Center / Mount Tabor / Montavilla / Madison South
Sellwood-Moreland / Ardenwald / Eastmoreland
Proposed New Station 21
Areas that would be served
Bridlemile / Hayhurst
St. Johns
Cathedral Park / St. Johns / Linnton / Summer Patrols of Forest Park
Lower Eastside
Hosford-Abernethy / Brooklyn
Swan Island
Overlook / Boise / Humboldt
Reed / Creston-Kenilworth / Woodstock / Brentwood-Darlington / South Tabor / Foster-Powell / Mt. Scott-Arleta
University of Portland
University Park / Portsmouth
Forest Park/Forest Heights
(Works Closely with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue)
Forest Park / Forest Heights
Rose City
Beaumont-Wilshire / Rose City Park / Roseway / Cully
Powellhurst-Gilbert / Pleasant Valley
Parkrose Heights / Russell / Wilkes / Woodland Park
(Jointly Staffed with Gresham Fire Department)
Centennial / Glenfair / West Gresham


Line of duty deaths[edit]

Since the establishment of Portland Fire & Rescue, 46 firefighters have died while on duty or as a result of of their job. Fifteen died from heart attacks; seven died from vehicle accidents; four died as a result of a structural collapse; two died from electrocution; seven died from a result of a fall; three died from smoke exposure (carbon monoxide poisoning); one died as the result of another type of accident; five died from other reasons; and two were due to cancer caused by repeated exposure to carcinogens throughout their career as firefighters. PF&R firefighters who have died as a result of their occupation are:

Firefighter Rank Date of Death Details
James Reed Volunteer Firefighter August 21, 1881 Collapsed from a heart attack after pulling a hand-drawn fire engine to the scene of a fire on August 16. Died at a hospital 5 days later.
Fred Wagner February 28, 1890 Struck in head by nozzle while testing a new fire engine at the corner of SW 7th & Salmon.
Tom O’Keefe August 21, 1891 While en route to a fire at 16th & Burnside, O'Keefe fell from vehicle while rounding a corner and was crushed under the wheels.
John G Hewston October 3, 1892 Died from a fractured skull after being knocked from his ladder by falling timber while fighting a fire in the Kamm Block (SW 1st & Pine).
Tom Grenfell March 25, 1896 Died from injuries sustained while responding to a fire call in January 1896. Grenfell fell while pulling a fire truck up a steep grade badly injuring himself. He sustained a similar injury a few days prior to his death resulting in his admitting himself to the hospital for surgery on a perforated appendix.
David Campbell Chief June 26, 1911 Campbell entered a fire at the Union Oil building at SE Salmon & Walter to evacuate his crew from an impending building collapse. Campbell's crew evacuated the building, but it collapsed on him before he was able to get out.
William Higdon June 6, 1912 While driving Engine 6, Higdon was thrown under the engine and dragged 100 feet, dying at the scene.
Emil Gustafson March 16, 1916 Was electrocuted after coming in contact with a 10,000 volt power line while working on telegraph wires for the fire alarm at NW 26th & Nicolai.
Francis H. McCormick August 15,1919 Died fighting a fire at the Northwest Box Company in SW Portland after being struck with a fire hose causing him to fall from a train trestle.
Karl Gunster June 15, 1921 Suffocated in a fire on the third floor of the May Apartments at SW 14th & Taylor.
Oscar H. Lehman October 3, 1921 Died as a result of a skull fracture received following an accident between two fire engines at SW 4th & Jefferson.
James S. Baldwin June 19, 1922 Electrocuted in basement of home at 387 Yamhill after contacting a live drop cord and falling in water from the firefighting efforts.
Oscar B. Gabriel October 25, 1922 Died under a wall collapse fighting fire at Washington High School.
Fred H. Rittenour February 1, 1923 Fell from loft at Station 19 (6049 SE Stark).
Adolph W. Wefel Lieutenant June1, 1923 A chimney fell collapsed on Wefel at North Benton Ave & Clackamas St during overhaul.
William E. Wilbur April 7, 1926 Had a seizure and then heart attack while fighting a fire at 848 NE Clackamas St.
Charles A. Ryan May 20, 1928 Died with Firefighter William McCreery when a safety belt holding him to McCreery broke, causing them to both fall to their deaths. Ryan & McCreery were practicing Rose Festival Parade Ladder Drill Team at SW Taylor & Chapman.
William John McCreery May 20, 1928 Died with Firefighter Charles Ryan when a safety belt holding Ryan to McCreery broke, causing them to both fall to their deaths. Ryan & McCreery were practicing Rose Festival Parade Ladder Drill Team at SW Taylor & Chapman.
Harry Josephson July 23, 1928 Fell from a power pole at SE 51st & Hawthorne suffering a skull fracture while working on the fire alarm system.
Walter McBride December 19, 1929 Found unconscious in bed at Station 9 (900 SE 35th) and taken to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Richard D. Laisner July 4, 1930 Died of a heart attack while fighting a fire at SE 37th Ave.
Henry Krimbel October 23, 1932 Fell through a skylight at the Councelor Apartments on August 16, 1930. Krimbel returned to work for a short time, but later died due to the injuries sustained in the fall.
Clement M. Kemmer April 21, 1933 While playing handball, as part of a physical fitness program at Station #8(45 NE Russell St), died from a heart attack.
Gustave A. Stephan Inspector June 26, 1933 Died of a heart attack at 68 NE Stanton while on duty.
Frank L. Kearney January 7, 1934 Kearney was killed, and nine other firefighters injured, during an accident between Engine 21 and Squad 1 at the intersection of SW 4th & Pine while responding to the Holly Dairy at 406 NW 14th.
Harry B. Morrow July 1, 1934 Died of a heart attack at SE 17th & Division fighting an automobile fire.
Harry U. Gardner January 19, 1935 Died of a heart attack while fighting a fire at NE 57th & Sandy.
William D. Heath March 18, 1935 Died from a heart attack at Station 22 (1233 SW 1st) after responding earlier to a fire at the Hotel Lindquist.
Frank A. Platt March 11, 1937 Was crushed between Engine 10 and the wall at Station 10 (5830 SW Kelly) while inspecting the engine. The driver mistakenly put the vehicle in reverse.
Harry R. Howard December 31, 1939 Died of a heart attack while on duty at Station 36 (5247 N. Lombard).
Ernest W. Bills June 3, 1940 Died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a fire at the Portland Furniture Manufacturing Company (5331 SW Macadam) when his canister mask failed. Firefighter Carl Markstrom suffered the same fate trying to safe Bills.
Carl. G. Markstrom June 3, 1940 Died in a fire at the Portland Furniture Manufacturing Company (5331 SW Macadam) while trying to safe Firefighter Ernest Bills, who also died in the fire.
Peter P. Kumpf December 5, 1940 Died from a heart ailment while on duty at Station 23 (1917 SE 7th).
Elmo St. Clair Bradford October 25, 1944 Died while fighting a roadside fire at SW Broadway & Hoffman.
Joseph F. Allerton October 2, 1945 Allerton commanded the fireboat at the Oregon Shipyard Fire on August 30, 1945. He became ill after the fire, and later died of bronchial pneumonia, having never returned to work.
William Inglesby July 19, 1946 Died while on duty at Station 33 (10803 NW Front)
Gregory A. Warner December 30, 1946 Suffered a heart attack on December 23 after returning from a fire at 2401 NW 23rd Ave, he died a week later.
Marion Stark March 31, 1947 Died of a heart attack in bed at Station 8 (45 NE Russell).
Alfred E. Berg November 2, 1948 Died of a heart attack while fighting a fire in a commercial building at 8950 N Bradford.
Daniel G. Shaw April 24, 1949 Died of a heart attack while at a house fire at 432 NE Russell.
Victor D. Brown December 4, 1957 Died of acute pneumonia and arterial sclerosis. No further details.
John T. Metcalf August 14, 1960 Died when Truck 7 was in an accident with a bus at the intersection of SE 12th & Hawthorne, throwing him from the vehicle.
Virgil L. Spencer October 29, 1966 Fell from a catwalk at the BP Johns Furniture Company fire when flames from a sawdust bin shot up towards him.
Jack Stephens February 8, 1971 Stephens died of an apparent heart attack following Run #843 to 329 SW Woods for a “smoke scare.” After returning he went to bed and was found deceased at shift change at Fire Station #2 at 630 SW Gaines Road.
John L. Devaney February 15, 1977 Died from a heart attack while fighting a fire at 4000 SW Shattuck Road.
Jeffrey S. Tuggle April 1, 1993 Died from cancer that was caused by the cumulative effects of fire byproduct exposure during his career.
Steven E Higley December 30, 2004 Died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma that was caused by the cumulative effects of fire byproduct exposure during his career.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of Oregon. San Francisco: History Company, 1886.
  2. ^ a b c "Jeff Morris Foundation" (PDF). 2009. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 
  3. ^ Lansing (2003), pp. 42-48
  4. ^ a b c Johnson, Brian K., and Don Porth. Portland Fire & Rescue. Images of America. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub, 2007. ISBN 9-7807-3854-8838.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Oregon Fallen Firefighters" (PDF). Oregon State Library: State Employee Information Center. Oregon State Library. 2006. Retrieved 2009-02-08. 

External links[edit]

Category:Government of Portland, Oregon Category:Fire departments of the United States|Oregon Category:1851 establishments Category:Firefighting in Oregon Category:Local government in Oregon Category:Multnomah County, Oregon Category:Organizations based in Oregon