Sara Boone Becomes Portland's 1st African American Fire Chief

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
Portland, Ore. June 13, 2019 4:08 p.m.

Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty announced Thursday that she has chosen Sara Boone as the city’s next fire chief.

Boone has been with Portland Fire and Rescue for 24 years.


She became the first African American female firefighter for the agency in 1995. Now, she’ll be the city's first African American fire chief.

Boone said being a woman of color in such a white- and male-dominated field has been challenging but rewarding. Overall, she said, the fire bureau is "like family."

One of the goals she said she has for the bureau is not only to improve its service to the community, but the staff's work culture.

"We always talk about the internal, or the fire service work culture, and our external mission," Boone said. "But I believe how we treat each other internally is a reflection of how we treat people externally.

"What I would like to see as a goal is that we really develop competencies when it comes to interpersonal skill sets, when it comes to communication, when it comes to equity."

Boone also said she wants to encourage anyone regardless of their background to join Portland Fire.


She said growing up she was told repeatedly as a girl that she wasn't physically strong compared to men.

"Today, with Title IX, you have young women competing in sports at the highest level and doing CrossFit," she said. "So, if they have the heart to serve, why wouldn't they step through the door?"

Boone said now more than ever, Portland needs a strong fire bureau as the city grows and evolves.

"At the core of who we are, we're a fire agency," she said.

Boone said she wants to continue working with other local agencies to improve response times and service for the area.

"We're looking at how do we work with the county? How do we work with nonprofits and NGOs," she said.

Hardesty said in a news release that both Boone's technical knowledge and commitment to the community informed her appointment for fire chief.

“Chief Boone is well-respected throughout the bureau and we have a great collaborative relationship. I know that she has the vision and experience to lead the bureau as it takes on new challenges," Hardesty said in a news release. "I am confident that she will make sure our city is safe and cared for under her watch.”

Portland's former fire chief, Mike Myers, left his position in January to work in Cannon Beach, Oregon. He has since returned to Portland to lead the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management, which Hardesty also oversees.

Portland now has black women atop its two major public safety agencies: Boone at Portland Fire and Rescue and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw.