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Portland firefighters ask for $3M to use toward new breathing apparatuses

Portland firefighters ask for $3M to use toward new breathing apparatuses

The Portland Fire and Rescue Bureau is asking the city for $3 million to help pay for new breathing apparatuses.

The self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is vital to fighting fires, and firefighters say their current apparatuses aren't adequate.

“The SCBA allows firefighters to enter into hazardous situations that are dangerous to health and life to perform emergency operations,” Deputy Chief of Portland Fire Sara Boone said. “In essence this is their lifeline."

Boone said the SCBA also tells firefighters if they are out of air or not moving. Not having functioning SCBAs could have lasting health effects on fire crews.

“Over the last 3 years, there have been several instances of no air situations inside of active fires exposing them to toxic contaminants,” Boone said.

According to Portland Fire Capt. Louisa Jones, the current SCBAs can't be fixed because their parts and pieces are no longer for sale.

“The manufacturerer is only making those parts of a short time they giving us something to move forward with for a little while,” Jones said.

A failure of an SCBA in an active fire could be deadly.

“It's important to our safety, that’s something you don't want to think about when you’re going in,” Portland Fire and Rescue Inspector Joel Wilks said.

KATU News reached out to Commissioner Dan Saltzman as well as Mayor Ted Wheeler for comment on the $3 million ask, but we have not heard back.

During the meeting, Mayor Wheeler was critical of PF&R, asking why if the units have been failing for three years is the council just being told now.

According to Fire Chief Mike Meyers, who has only been with Portland Fire and Rescue for a year and a half, he has been working to find fixes for these devices since taking the position.

The money would replace all the masks, tanks, and backpacks, amounting to hundreds of new units.

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