uit de krant van vandaag


A night with one department that answers every call

Een nachtje in station 61 van Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Oproep voor dronken meisje

The station lights clicked on at 2:27 Saturday morning, waking Station 61's firefighters from what was beginning to look like a rare night of undisturbed sleep. The voice of a dispatcher coming over the station's speakers announced that a 15-year-old girl had passed out after a night of heavy drinking. Her parents were understandably worried. Engineer Chris Weaver pushed the button to raise the overhead door and fired up Squirt 61's engine as the three other members of the Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue crew climbed aboard. In less than 90 seconds, the rumble of the truck's diesel engine echoed off homes and businesses in the dark stillness.  Inside the cab -- I filled the usually empty fifth seat -- everything was calmly routine.  Capt. Lance Bicket, commander of Station 61 at Southwest Murray Boulevard and Butner Road, began watching for traffic on the truck's right side, telling Weaver when it was clear to cross through intersections.  In the seat behind Bicket, firefighter Andrew Hagman pulled a notebook from a rack of binders and searched for the page detailing the layout of the apartment complex off Barnes Road in the Cedar Mill area. Weaver cautiously navigated the truck into the driveway. The rig is just less than 40 feet long, so moving it through the tightly curved lot was like steering an aircraft carrier in a pleasure-boat marina. When the crew opened the apartment door, the girl's parents were near panic. They said they don't drink and didn't know what to do.

As the rest of the team checked the girl, firefighter Al Pimentel spoke in Spanish, calming the parents' fears and explaining why it would be best to take the girl to a hospital where she could be watched by people with experience. "She's gonna be awfully sick in the morning," Hagman said as the ambulance crew took her aboard.  Forty-five minutes after they were rousted from their sleep, the crew were headed back to the station to try again.

Steeds aandachtig zijn, hier kan de volgende oproep zijn

On the return trip they glanced toward the old shopping center at Murray and U.S. 26 and talked about where they would lay hoses, tap hydrants and attack a blaze if the structure ever caught fire. "You always look ahead," Bicket explained. "Much of this job is simply being prepared."  Back at the station, they checked their gear, refilled the medicine box and headed back to the dorm rooms. But sleep was short-lived.

Volgende oproep, verkeerongeval, wagen tegen verlichtingspaal

We were barely horizontal when the lights flashed again. The alarm sounded and a voice over the speaker directed us to a single-car accident on Southwest Walker Road. A young woman returning from a party said she fell asleep. Her car slammed through a guardrail and wedged itself between a large tree and a utility pole.

"She's one lucky young lady," Bicket said as he surveyed the damage and considered what it could have been like if she had hit the tree or the pole.  Beaverton police, who also came to the scene, said they would follow her to the hospital, where she would be charged on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Speciale 8 uur durende sessie voor locale politici

Station 61 was among eight involved in Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue's recent Community Academy, which gathers political, business and community leaders -- and, in this case, me -- for a round-the-clock, full-immersion look at the public safety agency. It included eight hours of classroom work, along with drills on how to pull hoses, drive an engine and tap a fire hydrant. My classmates included Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen and Legacy Meridian Park Hospital administrator Allyson Anderson. We hustled to get into a set of turnouts in less than 75 seconds, a prerequisite before being assigned to stations for an overnight shift. Later, we joined crews as they responded to trash fires, multicar wrecks and medical emergencies ranging from a suicide attempt to a dog bite so small it didn't merit a Band-Aid. In between, the guests helped make dinner, clean up and learn about the culture of a fire station.  It is a mix of fraternal congeniality, military precision and high esprit d'corps.  


Brandweermannen, toch nog helden

In the station house, the attitude is so casual you would be hard pressed to figure out who is in charge. On a call, each crew member is responsible for every other member of the team, and often for the lives of those they are helping. Not everyone is capable of working under those pressures, but the rewards are without parallel. Part of it is public trust.

In an era when much of the U.S. public has grown distrustful of its civil servants, firefighters remain among the nation's heroes.  But it's hard to qualify for that status. During the most recent round of applications, 1,600 people tried out for 16 Tualatin Valley Fire jobs. And even after a rigorous application and test, 10 percent to 15 percent of those accepted don't make it through the district's version of basic training. What's left, says Chief Jeff Johnson, are the best of the best. "We pick people who have that sense of duty in their heart and in their head," Johnson says. "And then we train their hands."  That is exactly whom you want in Station 61 when the lights go on at 2:27 a.m.


Jerry F. Boone: 503-294-5960; jerryboone@news.oregonian.com or jfboone@aol.com; 1675 S.W. Marlow Ave., Suite 325, Portland, OR 97225



op de voorpagina foto's uitslaande brand van vanacht

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