Readers Respond to Friction Within Portland Fire & Rescue

“As usual, an emergent mental health response program faces the city budget ax once the spotlight moves on.”

ALARMING: A fire truck from Portland Fire & Rescue Station 8 arrives to investigate a trash fire under the North Vancouver Avenue bridge over the Columbia Slough. (Brian Burk)

Last week, WW revealed a rancorous fight unfolding inside Portland Fire & Rescue, much of it laid out in a legal notice filed by a former division chief (“Flame War,” May 31). The immediate issue: Another senior fire official and close friend of Fire Chief Sara Boone allegedly mocked a request by a Portland Street Response employee to share personal pronouns. But the wider context of the dispute is a funding crunch at the fire bureau that threatens the future of PSR, a program as unpopular with firefighters as it is beloved by Portland voters. Overseeing the mess is newly elected City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez, who has loyally sided with the fire union that endorsed him. Here’s what our readers had to say:

G_Liddell, via Reddit: “Wow, way to kneecap in its infancy one of the best new programs this city has done lately. Meanwhile, our chud-ass police force gets a quarter billion a year to sit on their ass and whine.”

Mid County, via “As usual, an emergent mental health response program faces the city budget ax once the spotlight moves on.

“Among the many reasons it was doomed from the start? The usual city arrogance that they know better than anyone else (and by extension must solely control it). All that time, effort and funding wasted on re-creating the proverbial wheel, then force feeding it onto a bureau whose primary mission is not providing emergent mental health services, but rather already widely divided among many disciplines.

“It is especially egregious since by law the county, not the city, is tasked with mental health services as an essential function (i.e., like the sheriff’s office, it has to be funded). They already have a long-standing (at least 15 years on) mental health response program called Project Respond.

“Project Respond is essentially what PSR hoped to be, except they [respond] to any location in the county, not just the city. Their managers have a sole professional focus on the mental health care system. Their main acknowledged current shortcomings are that while the program already has the infrastructure to support it, they lack staff and funding to provide true 24/7 response services.”

Terry Harris, via Twitter: “This story, man. This ain’t the time for culture clash infighting within Portland public safety agencies. The leadership failures herein are inexcusable.

“It seems the whole public safety emergency response system is based in the city. Putting an agency in an entirely different jurisdiction simply to accommodate ‘culture’ would likely just create more cracks for the vulnerable to fall into. It’s leadership malpractice.”

Hope4PDX, via “You mean there’s a ‘cultural difference’ between people that are willing to strap on 100 pounds of gear and run into a burning building to save lives and those willing to hand out water bottles to homeless people after taking the time to make sure that everyone is aware of their pronouns? Shocking.”

dolphs4, via Reddit: “JFC, why can’t people just keep their heads down and do their job? How hard is it to not discriminate [against] your co-workers? They want nonbinary pronouns? Sure, whatever. That has no impact on the performance of your job.”

Emory, via Twitter: “The paper refers to ‘vagaries’ afflicting Portland Street Response. The principal vagary was the endorsement and narrow election of an anti-PSR zealot.”

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: P.O. Box 10770, Portland OR, 97296 Email:

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