PORTLAND – Mayor Charlie Hales' proposed budget cuts 42 positions from Portland Fire and Rescue, and a big way the mayor wants to accomplish that is to create some smaller crews for non-acute medical calls. But some firefighters fear they would lose some of the tools they need to do their jobs.
The city currently has two Rapid Response Vehicles, or RRV’s, that use a two-person crew, instead of the four-person crews found on bigger engines and trucks.
Hales wants the RRV’s to replace engines at stations with both an engine and truck company.
“It is time to make some changes in the way we respond, and not always send a truck with four-person crew to every medical call,” said Hales.
But firefighters don’t like the plan. They say it will compromise safety for both fire crews and the public.
“My concern is for the citizens of Portland,” said Portland firefighter Isaac McLennan. "My only frustration is we want to do our job, and we want the tools to do our job."
Portland’s Battalion Chief in charge of Emergency Medical Service Ken Burns agrees RRV’s replacing engines, instead of enhancing service, creates challenges.
“It takes away some of the firefighting capabilities of the neighborhood, it puts a strain on the neighboring fire stations because they have to come in and cover that area which ultimately increases response times,” Burns said.
Hales said it’s better than the alternative of closing fire stations completely.
“No question, we’re talking about hard questions and change here,” he said.