Portland receives federal grant to save 26 firefighter positions

Portland receives federal grant to save 26 firefighter positions
Photo courtesy of Portland Fire & Rescue.

PORTLAND, Ore. – This time, it’s the firefighters who are being saved.

Portland Fire & Rescue announced on Thursday that will receive a $4,554,394 grant from the federal government that will fund 26 firefighter positions for two years.

"This grant is very important, not only for the firefighters and their families who were directly impacted by potential layoffs, but to everyone who lives, works, or visits Portland and relies on the dynamic fire & rescue services PF&R provides,” said chief Erin Janssens.

The grant will prioritize rehiring firefighters who have been laid off.

During the last budget cycle, 26 positions were eliminated. Through various budgetary means, PF&R covered the gaps caused by the lost positions.

If the grant hadn’t gone through, two stations would have been eliminated.

"It's not every day that the federal government gives us, or anybody, $4.5 million. So for us at Portland Fire and Rescue, it's been a little bit like Christmas around here," said Janssens. "It means that 26 firefighters who received pink slips will be able to enjoy their holidays with their families knowing that they have stable jobs."

She noted that in the 25 years she's been with the fire bureau, this was the most complicated grant application she has seen.

Portland Mayor Charlie Hales agreed.

"It may be Christmastime, but this gift just didn't come down the chimney in Santa's pack," he said. "It arrived because of excellent work, collaboration and partnership."

Hales said it took the support of the City Council, the fire bureau, the firefighter's union and Oregon's congressional delegation to convince the federal government to approve the grant.

The grant comes through an arm of FEMA called Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER).

"It is great to see (FEMA) recognize the vital role Portland's firefighters play in our community's safety by providing us this bridge funding over the next two years to keep all our fire stations open and operating," Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman said in a press release. "I will make certain City Council follows through on its commitment to reestablish this funding from local sources at the end of the grant.”