Earlier this month, the Portland City Council held a work session to review an independent study brought forth by Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty and Portland Fire & Rescue. The Citygate report provided an analysis of current staffing levels, as well as a road map for building up and supporting the bureau to ensure Portlanders receive the services they expect while our Firefighters are equipped to provide those services safely.
To expedite the filling of current staffing gaps, Portland Fire & Rescue initiated an innovative strategy of hiring experienced firefighters, often referred to as “Lateral Recruits” into vacant Firefighter positions.
Our second and most recent lateral recruitment class began earlier this week. This strategy has the effect of reducing the amount of time required for new employee training and deploys the Lateral Firefighters online approximately 6.5 months sooner than new entry level firefighter recruits.
After being hired, Lateral recruits receive accelerated training and then shadow a Field Training Officer (FTO) in a station for 3 months. Today I brought forward an ordinance unanimously approved by Council that will allow Portland Fire & Rescue to compensate Field Training Officers with a premium of 6% for the additional workload.
There are cost savings for Portland taxpayers realized by shortening the training time for Lateral Recruits, as they can fill shifts earlier than new entry level firefighter recruits, which avoids the need to fill shifts through overtime.
“I can’t overstate my appreciation for our firefighters, who have stepped up in every way they have been asked to serve with incredible bravery over a difficult last few years – whether putting out fires locally, helping combat wildfires statewide, or vaccinating our community during a global pandemic.
Our Firefighters have performed this work despite decades of underinvestment, especially in comparison to other first responders. Since becoming Fire Commissioner, I have consistently worked to improve the wellness and working conditions of our employees and have successfully prevented budget cuts and station closures. My office worked with Portland Fire & Rescue to conduct the CityGate evaluation and work session so we can make data informed investments that will strengthen and modernize Portland Fire & Rescue. This is an early step in following the recommendations from that report.”
Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Sara Boone
“I’d like to first acknowledge the sacrifice and service of our firefighters as we have struggled over the past few years to maintain consistent staffing. We appreciate Commissioner Hardesty’s leadership and Council’s support, as well as the strong advocacy of Local 43. This ordinance will expedite our ability to get firefighters on the line and reduce mandatory overtime.”