Some worry service will suffer under city's proposed fire crew plan

PORTLAND, Ore. - A shuffling of money by City Hall may mean when fire crews are called out from certain stations, fewer of them will go out on the initial call.

Fire Stations Nos. 2 and 8 in North Portland are the engine companies that could see their number of trucks cut in half.

It's part of Portland Mayor Charlie Hales' plan to help close the city's $20 million budget gap.

But Pippin Beard is concerned about having fewer fire trucks serve his neighborhood.

"If you take this baseline and then cut it down even further, it's going to compromise the safety of the community and as taxpayers, where does that leave us?" he said.

Portland's fire chief is recommending that the engine companies replace a big truck with an ambulance-sized truck called an RRV (rapid response vehicles). Those smaller trucks would be rolled out to medical calls, which the city says accounts for the majority of emergencies.

"Seventy percent to 80 percent of all calls are medical calls. The right person is going to show up with the right training," said the mayor's spokesman Dana Haynes.

He said the city needs more rescue crews and it can make due with fewer engines.

The result is some neighborhoods will have fewer full-sized trucks. And full-sized trucks from other neighborhoods could be called to help on fires.

Portland firefighter Capt. Greg Espinosa, vice president of Portland Firefighters Association, said fewer engines in North Portland will increase initial response times and fewer firefighters will respond first.

"At the end of the day, fire apparatuses don't put fires out and rescue people, firefighters do that, and they're minimizing the number of firefighters that respond out of this station," he said.

City Council will vote on this plan Thursday. If it passes, the engines will go away at stations 2 and 8, and the smaller trucks will roll in July 1.