Portland Fire Bureau—a Live Organization
History, Past and Present, of the Convention City’s Fire Department—Well Disciplined and Efficient—the Fire Prevention Division
THE City of Portland, Ore., was settled in 1845 and incorporated as a city during the year 1851, and had no fire department except a bucket brigade until 1870, when a volunteer fire department was organized. This lasted until January 1, 1883. It was then organized as a call department. The men responded to the alarm by a bell signal. The call days lasted from 1883 to June 1, 1904. The department was organized as a full paid unit in 1904.
The First Chief of Portland
The first chief of the old department was Tom Jordan. Chief Campbell was the first chief of the paid department.
Civil service was enacted by legislature in 1903. I his placed the entire fire and police departments under civil service, with the exception of the chief of police.
Many Changes in Post of Fire Chief
The first chief of the volunteer fire department, T om Jordan, served from January 1, 1883 to July 1, 1884. Harry Morgan was next appointed as fire chief, serving in that capacity from 1884 to 1892. At that time the Portland Fire Department was on a partially paid basis, each company having a captain and driver who received approximately $75 per month for their services.
The office of chief at that time was an honorary position, As the fire department was then buffeted by the various political parties, so again a change came in the person of Robert Holman who acted as chief from 1892 to 1893, when the political tide again changed and Joseph Buehtel was given the chiefship for a period of two years.
Heroic Death of Chief Campbell
Next came David Campbell as chief from 1895 to 1896, when again the political tide changed and he was succeeded by Penis DeBois from 18% to 1898. During the year of 1898 a change was made again and David Campbell was re-appointed as chief, serving as such until 1911, when he met his death so heroically at the Union Oil Company’s fire on June 26, 1911. The fire fighters of our city are erecting a gigantic memorial in honor of Ex-Chief David Campbell and all of the Portland fire-fighters killed in the line of active duty.
Chief Campbell was succeeded by Chief B. F. Dowell, who held that position until his retirement in 1920. when he was followed by John E. Young, who also retired during the year of 1923, when our present fire chief, Lee C. Holden, assumed active charge of the Portland Fire Department.
In 1904 at the organization of the paid department there were 12 companies in the department, consisting of 4 hose companies, 5 truck companies and 3 chemical companies, with approximately 10 men for each company, excepting the chemical companies with three men.
Present Organization of Fire Bureau
The Equipment of the Bureau
The list of equipment of the bureau is as follows:
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The Portland Fire Bureau
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Location of Fire Houses
The location of houses occupied as fire stations are as follows:
AUXILIARY FIRK STATIONS
Executive Officers of Bureau of Fire
The Portland Fire Department comes under the direction of the City Council and under the supervision of the Department of Public Affairs of which City Commissioner C. A. Bigelow has charge. The executive officers of the Bureau of Fire are:
Lee G. Holden, Chief Engineer Edward Grenfell, 1st Ass’t Chief Engineer Jas. Dillanc, 2nd Ass’t Chief Engineer
(District N’o. 2—West side, north of Morrison Street)
W. D. Heath, Battalion Chief
(District No. I—West side, south of Morrison Street) Harry C. Johnson, Battalion Chief,
(District No. 4—East side, south of E. Ankeny Street)
Fred W. Roberts, Battalion Chief
(District No. 3—Flast side, north of E. Ankeny Street)
H. F. Bahlman, Chief Clerk
Chas. A. Savariau, Superintendent Fire Alarm Telegraph W. J. Phillips, Master Mechanic
Great Growth of Bureau
The fire department has grown from an organization of twelve companies in 1904 until it has reached a total of 43 companies at the present time and provision has been made for the expenditure of $735,000 for new fire stations and equipment to be installed the first of the year which will include three new fireboats, one new squad company, one new aerial truck and five new pumpers as well as 500 new fire alarm boxes and a new central fire alarm telegraph station.
The various fire companies are commanded by junior and senior captains under the two-platoon system. The city is divided into four battalion districts each under command of a district or battalion chief, the battalion chiefs not working under the two platoon system.
Salaries of Officers and Men
The salaries paid the members of the Bureau of Fire are as follows:
The entire fire department is up on its toes and waiting the arrival of the various conventions of fire chiefs who will convene in the city August 4 to 12 inclusive. Every member of the Bureau of Fire has some particular assignment in regard to the coming conventions and it is certain they will do everything in their power in order to make the combined conventions the most successful in the history of its organization.
The Portland Fire Prevention Division
The Fire Prevention Division of the Portland Fire Bureau was created by an ordinance passed by the city council. The ordinance provides that the commissioner in charge of the Bureau of Fire shall appoint from among the members of the bureau, a qualified member who shall act as fire marshal, acting under the chief of the department.
The fire marshal has the authority to appoint from members of the Bureau of Fire, as many assistant fire marshals as he sees fit, in order to carry on the work of preventing fire, and to enforce the fire code.
The present fire code, as amended, was passed by the city council in June, 1925. It is the duty of the fire marshal and his assistants to enforce this code.
Edward Grenfell, who is the first assistant chief of the fire department, was appointed fire marshal 10 years ago, and has held that post ever since. Under his leadership fire prevention has made splendid progress in the city; and the Portland Fire Department has been awarded numerous prizes, including the Thomas Ince Cup; State Fire Marshals Flag, and the Inter-Chamber Fire Waste Contest Committee Plaque of the National Chamber of Commerce for cities of the first class.
Duties of Fire Marshal
It is the duty of the fire marshal to supervise the inspection work of the division, and the investigation of the cause of fires that occur. Also to prosecute arson cases.
It is his duty also to approve new building construction insofar as the safety of life and property are concerned. He must also supervise the installation of fire protection on construction in the dock zone, and must supervise the installation of oil storage plants, and systems.
Duties of Men of Division
Under the fire marshal, in the Fire Prevention Division are 23 men whose duties are as follows:
A secretary, whose duty is to keep all the records of the Bureau, who lias charge of the tiles, and who must meet the public and inform them of the requirements of the Fire Ordinances, etc. He must also receive all complaints investigated, assign them to the inspectors, and act as secretary for the Bureau.
A chief inspector, whose duty is to supervise the work of inspection, prosecute court cases for ordinance violations, and take charge of the condemnation and wrecking of old buildings that become fire hazards.
The Arson Squad
The arson squad consists of four men, a chief investigator and three assistants. These men work two on a
shift of 24 hours and answer all alarms that occur in the city, along with the apparatus.
It is their duty to determine the cause of the fire, and in case of incendiarism to ascertain the person responsible and prosecute the case in court.
One man is detailed to the inspection of sawmills and other large industrial plants, and devotes his entire time to this work. It is his duty to organize fire squads and to supervise the installation of fire protection and fire prevention appliances.
One man is detailed to the inspection of theatres, and devotes his entire time to this work. He has charge of all theatres and film exchanges and arranges for the detail of firemen for large gatherings, etc. One man is assigned as clerk and stenographer in the office.
The work of inspection is carried on In the company officers, who inspect in their own districts. Thirteen men are assigned to the fire prevention division, and these men are sent to the various companies to relieve the officers who are on inspection detail, so as to keep the companies up to full strength at all times.
Inspectors are provided with inspection blanks, and note on them the conditions found at each place they inspect. In case of violations, or fire hazards, the inspector must cause the abatement of the complaint, Particularlv difficult cases are reported to the chief inspector, who assists the officer in abating the complaint.
The division is continually carrying on the work of educating the public in the line of fire prevention. Speakers are sent to the schools and all public gatherings and the bureau is continually striving to show the people the wisdom of practicing fire prevention.