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Portland Fire Dept. Sends Out 26 Layoff Notices

Layoff notices have been sent to 26 staffers with Portland Fire and Rescue. City leaders still hope to get a federal grant to keep the firefighters on the job.

When Mayor Charlie Hales introduced his budget, he projected as many as 41 layoffs. But a combination of measures has saved cash.

The Mayor’s office credits the use of Rapid Response Vehicles on some calls. They’re smaller than fire engines and require fewer staff.

The city offered several hundred-thousand dollars in one-time bridge funding from an equipment reserve fund. And Chief Erin Janssens wrote in a memo that the bureau reduced overtime spending by 9.3 percent over last year.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman oversees Portland Fire and Rescue. He says the city will likely apply for a grant from FEMA designed to maintain staffing levels in fire departments in lean years.

It looks like a good deal, Saltzman says, but the city needs a bit more time to examine the terms of the grant.

“We didn’t want to be caught in a situation where we have to commit to keeping a fixed staffing level in perpetuity. It’s hard for us to bind a future council about a future budget,” according to Saltzman.

Saltzman says he and Chief Janssens hope to reduce overtime costs further in the next budget cycle.

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