On Saturday, September 2, 2023, the Portland Fire Fighters’ Association (IAFF Local 43), the crew of PFS 23, and neighbors from Hosford-Abernethy & Brooklyn celebrated the full staffing of the engine company at PFS 23 with tours, a barbeque, and presentations by local officials.
When Cheryl and I lived in Cincinnati, we were often invited as guests to the Cincinnati AFL/CIO barbeques on Labor Day Weekend, and we always went. As union brats, we both knew that union members know how to throw a cookout. PFS 23 didn’t disappoint.
The events started with local president Isaac MacLennan saying that it had been a long, hard fight to get the federal grants to restaff the station. Our neighborhoods are under-resourced by the city, and the city of Portland should make the budgeting decision permanent, as a matter of equity.
Captain Robert Hutchens of PFS 23 then spoke to his dedication to this assignment, saying he had immediately requested command of PFS 23 upon promotion. His vision for the station’s reëstablishment was recently justified: When a business in SE caught fire in August, PFS 23 arrived two-and-a-half minutes before the next engine company. Capt Hutchens explained: fires double in magnitude every minute. At that rate, the fire would have grown more than 5-fold, engulfing the building. That would have been devastating to the business and much more dangerous to both the community and the firefighters. PFS 23 was able to easily put it out without much damage, and the business owner told Capt Hutchens later they’d be able to reopen quickly.
Chris Eykamp, the chair of the Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District, said that HAND had been advocating for the reopening of the firehouse ever since it was closed, because they knew the impact it has on the community.
LC Hansen, Brooklyn Action Corps board member and SE Uplift liaison, told a story of touring a Los Angeles fire station as youngster. She wasn’t able to slide down the pole, then, and couldn’t today, to her eternal disappointment. (We still got a simulated picture, though!) LC pointed out that the Inner SE is the most densely populated area of Portland. With developments like the newly opened BrookLAND Apartments and the apartments going up on the former site of the US Bank on SE Kelly & Milwaukie, we’re only likely to increase in population. A fully-staffed PFS 23 is needed to keep us all safe.
Board member Cheryl Crowe made sure all the firefighters had BAC CCC “Love your neighborhood” buttons, which they proudly wore during the event. There were stickers and plastic firefighter helmets for the kids and the young-at-heart, tours of the engines, and tours of the firehouse.
President Isaac McLennan told me as we waited for the grills to heat up, “Unions are like family.” This celebration was like family welcoming back a long-lost cousin.
Welcome back, Station 23.
Local Media Coverage:
- Paulina Aguilar at KPTV-12, Fire station reopens after 12 years in SE Portland with $2.1M federal grant
- Joelle Jones, KOIN-6, 12 years closed: Portland Fire Station 23 re-opens