September 16, 2010 -- Portland Fire & Rescue's (PF&R) Station 17 is located at 848 North Tomahawk Island Drive on beautiful Hayden Island and serves the Hayden Island, East Columbia, and Bridgeton Neighborhood Associations as well as the Rivergate Industrial District. Station 17 is one of three stations with marine firefighting and rescue capabilities. The station is staffed by an officer, harbor pilot, firefighter paramedic deckhand, and engineer on each shift. In addition to being trained as firefighters, the crew is trained to fight fires and save lives on the Columbia River. This station’s apparatus includes an engine with advanced life support, a fire boat, a rapid-response rescue boat and a utility response vehicle.
The station is well known for The Jim Canton Memorial Rose Garden, located at the west side of the station. It is named after a longtime island resident and local businessman who died suddenly in 1997. This rose garden is maintained by the crew as well as a local volunteer who tends the roses once a week. The garden is home to about 55 different rose bushes and this year, during Rose Festival, took first place in the Commercial Rose Garden category.
This garden also greets people to the moorage where the fire boat is docked. Station 17 protects over 100 miles of waterfront, including one of the largest numbers of floating homes and boat moorages in the United States. “These homes are incredibly close together. Because of this, one fire equals three,” says Captain Scott. The 46-foot fire boat Vernon R. Buss, named after a past PF&R battalion chief is a slower speed boat, but has the capability to pump over five thousand gallons of water per minute.
On the other side of the island a swifter moving, 32-foot rescue boat is docked. This boat is equipped with a variety of features including a FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar) which helps the crew navigate through the river at night or during times of low visibility. It also has a ramp on the bow that has the ability to lower into the water for a rescue. During the summer months especially, the crew is busy assisting swimmers, boaters, and distressed vessels.
In order to keep their own vessels running in good order, the firefighter/engineer on duty checks a variety of features each day to ensure that the boat and equipment are prepared for an emergency. In addition to the daily checks, the boats also get thoroughly cleaned one time per week and serviced once a month. They are also taken out of the water for a short time once a year for preventative maintenance, during this time a reserve boat is in place to continue response capability.
In 2009, the crew responded to 869 incidents. When asked about their most memorable call, the crew recalled an event a couple of years ago when a sailboat came loose from the dock with sleeping people on board. It floated downstream before crashing into the railroad bridge, BNSF, located at the west end of Hayden Island. The mast was stuck in electrical lines, and the boat wedged under the bridge. The crew from Station 17 brought the surprised individuals back to safety while a tug boat worked to pull the boat from the bridge. This, ironically, was the first official day of the Harbor Pilot’s career and the event ran very smooth.
The crew also enjoys playing an important role on the island, especially developing relationships with the marine community. Each year the crew hosts special informational meetings to share fire safety tips with local boat and yacht owners. In addition, each Fourth of July the crew provides safety for the barges that light off fireworks.
Like PF&R’s other twenty-nine stations, Station 17 works hard to protect the people and property in their fire management area. Thank you Station 17 for protecting the waters, businesses, residents, and visitors of Hayden Island.
Article submitted by PF&R Intern, Jessica Budge
Portland Fire & Rescue We Respond: Always Ready, Always There