By Leila Merrill
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Firefighter’s Association is asking the city to give firefighters double pay for overtime, which they describe as forced because of short staffing.
Current overtime costs are almost $20 million a year, according to KOIN 6 News.
Some stations have only one firefighter on duty at times.
Isaac McLennan of the Portland Firefighter’s Association told KOIN 6 News if “somebody’s involved in a cardiac arrest or their house is on fire, we need to be there within four to five minutes. That can’t happen when you start closing down companies across the city.”
“We have firefighters that are working 96-hour shifts. Sleep deprivation, you know, is a real thing and forced working an additional shift after working 96 hours is just not safe,” McLennan said.
More than a dozen firefighters have been hired this year, but the local fire bureau said that hiring has not kept pace with population growth, and 13 positions need to be added.
Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who is in charge of the fire bureau, said city-wide budget cuts may come in the next budget year and is concerned about not being able to recover the costs of double overtime, which could lead to job cuts.
Local 911 operators also are short-staffed and have asked for double overtime pay. The city has agreed to pay that until the fiscal year’s end but is evaluating it each month.