Firefighters Utilize Help From Community On Medical Call, Highlights Department Staffing Issues

PORTLAND, OR – A medical call last weekend for Portland Fire and Rescue is shedding light on staffing issues within the department.

On Saturday, at Southeast 11th Avenue and Division Street, a woman was in a dire medical situation.

Portland Fire and Rescue Lt. Craig Gault was one of two from Station 23 who responded to the call.

“There’s a lot to do, a lot of notes need to be taken, we need to work on the airway, we need to put the heart machine on,” Gault said.

When they arrived, a bystander and police officer were already performing CPR.

With only two responding crews, Portland Fire and Rescue recognized they were short staffed and asked for community help.

“We asked the Portland Police officer if he couldn’t mind doing CPR until the rest of our resources which had been dispatched arrived,” Gault said.

With the help of the passerby and police officer, the woman regained a pulse and was taken to the hospital.

Lt. Rich Chatman, the public information officer for the department, says the reality is the department’s been taking budget cuts for years now.

“As the city has grown, we have taken budget cuts,” Chatman said. “Those budget cuts have resulted in us trying to shift things around so that we can cover the city the way we can.”

Chatman says this year the department took a $1 million cut.

He says Station 23 used to have a four-person crew which is standard, but now it’s only two.

The department had to move crews to another station instead for areas with a higher volume of calls.

“Ultimately, what we want to do for the benefit of everyone involved is run efficiently,” Chatman said. “We have to be creative in creating efficiencies and that’s what you see happening with Rescue 23.”

Chatman says the department’s working with what it has and providing the best service it can each day.

But these decisions aren’t easy, which is why Gault says he’s grateful for the community stepping up and helping on Saturday.

“To get them back, to make a difference and know that everybody working made that difference then it really makes your job worthwhile,” Gault said.

FOX 12 reached out to Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s office on Monday.

She oversees Portland Fire and Rescue, but she was unavailable to comment on the budget or staffing issues for the department.


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