Firefighters at Ore. department demand better working conditions
Gresham firefighters reported various hazardous conditions, including sewage leaks and and lack of protective sleeping quarters
By Sarah Roebuck
GRESHAM, Oregon — Firefighters with the Gresham Fire Department went before the city council on Tuesday to bring up longstanding occupational safety concerns, KGW reports.
During the meeting, firefighters demanded improved working conditions and more staffing resources after two recent line-of-duty deaths and an increase in serious illness among staff members.
IAFF Local 1062, the union for Gresham Firefighters, has provided some statistics that are causing concern. The city’s service population has experienced significant growth, more than doubling in size since 1990, increasing from 68,235 to 147,835 in 2021. Alongside this, the fire department has seen a 339% surge in call volume, from 5,227 calls in 1990 to 22,947 in 2021. Despite these increases, the fire department’s daily minimum staffing levels have remained stagnant, with only 24 people since 1990. The union has expressed worries about the current workloads of Gresham firefighters, who, on average, are working 59-hour weeks.
Gresham Fire Battalion Chief Kestin Kim-Proudfoot, along with other firefighters, have expressed concerns about the lack of protective sleeping quarters in Gresham fire stations, which currently do not shield firefighters from the diesel exhaust released from fire engines. They have reported various hazardous conditions, including sewage leaks and presence of lead in the water, with these issues being particularly severe at Station 75 in Troutdale.
“Not one of our stations are up to code,” said Kim-Proudfoot during the meeting. “These are our homes and they’re killing us.”
Firefighters have voiced their needs, which include an increased workforce, secure working environments, and environmental assessments to gauge the current condition of their facilities. Following these public statements, Gresham Mayor Travis Stovall and other members of the council expressed their surprise and pledged to take action in response to these concerns.
In response to the public testimony, the council members have decided to hire an industrial hygienist. This professional will be tasked with evaluating the working conditions in all of Gresham’s fire stations.