In Further Sign of Tension, Portland Fire & Rescue Bans Federal Agents—and Portland Cops—From Using Its Stations

The announcement underscores recent tensions between Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who oversees PF&R, and Mayor Ted Wheeler, who oversees the Police Bureau.

An officer makes an arrest in downtown Portland on July 18. (Alex Wittwer)

Portland Fire & Rescue made an odd announcement at 7:25 on Sunday night: The bureau denied federal law enforcement officials had used its station houses—and said in future neither the feds nor the Portland Police Bureau would be welcome at its 31 stations strategically located throughout the city.

"Recently, a story has been circulated that federally contracted law
enforcement agents have been using Portland Fire & Rescue stations as
staging areas for operations against demonstrators," the fire bureau said in a statement. "PF&R would like to make it very clear that these federal agents were not, and will not ever be, allowed to use fire stations for their tactical operations.

"To ensure that there is no confusion in regards to our role in providing safety to the residents of the city of Portland, Fire Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has directed that no PF&R station will be used by law enforcement of any kind, to include Portland police, for any tactical operations until further notice.

"Historically, Portland police RRT officers were allowed to stage their personnel at fire stations for deployment. This will no longer be allowed."

That is a slap in the face to the PPB's Rapid Response Team and an escalation of tensions that first surfaced July 18, when Hardesty demanded that Wheeler either rein in Portland police officers on the front lines of nightly protests, or hand the Police Bureau over to her. The ban on Portland police at fire stations also comes amid questions whether and to what extent local law enforcement is coordinating its response to protests with federal officers.

Related: Hardesty to Wheeler: Control Portland Police or Give Me the Bureau

In a statement issued 40 minutes after Portland Fire & Rescue said his officers were not welcome, Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell held out an olive branch.

"The Portland Police Bureau is aware of direction given to Portland Fire & Rescue to no longer allow Portland police to use their stations as staging areas," the bureau said in a statement.

"The Portland police will continue to proudly serve with the brave men and women of Portland Fire & Rescue," Lovell added. "We work together every day, placing our lives in each other's hands to serve the community and will continue to do so."

Neither Hardesty's nor Wheeler's offices were immediately available for comment.

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