APPARATUS OF PORTLAND FIRE
Portland Fire Apparatus - 1853 to 2021
In an exhaustive seach of Portland Fire records, a complete list of all Portland Fire apparatus (Engines, Trucks, Squads, Fireboats, and assorted other major apparatus) has been compiled into a list presented here. Portland Fire began identifying equipment by Apparatus Number at the purchase of the first motorized fire engine. This was a major part of the ability to identify apparatus, even decades later. The list is assembled in chronological order so it clearly shows purchasing trends with different manufacturers. The Purchase/In-Service date column is a mix of the date of purchase OR date the apparatus was placed in service, depending upon the record keeping of the time. So it can seem a bit mixed. In the rows colored red, a photo of the apparatus is on file as well.
If you have information to contribute to clarify or add to these apparatus records, they would be welcomed. Please use the "Contact Us" page to submit information.
PORTLAND FIRE OWNED APPARATUS
1859 Jeffers Sidestroke
This was an original Portland Fire Engine (probably the 6th to serve Portland), purchased in 1859 and put in service in 1860 with Columbian Engine Company #3. As the steam era came into being, it was handed down to other volunteer companies until it was finally sold to the Oregon town of Pendleton in the early 1880s. In the 1890s, Portland's Veteran Volunteer Firemens Association began holding annual Fireman's Balls to raise the funds necessary to bring it back to Portland. It was purchased and returned in the late 1890s and has remained an asset ever since. It carries the original paint scheme and although Pendleton painted a company number on it, the original "3" can still be seen on the water box.
In an interesting turn of events, William Jeffers (pictured) not only was an innovator for the fire service, but his great great grandson would somewhat follow in his footsteps. He would serve as an ATF Agent/Fire Investigator in the Portland office. Before he retired, he shared his great, great grandfather's story and images. William Jeffers story is in the PDF file below. Just above is the receipt for the purchase of the hand pumper when bought in 1859. In the photo above, the name "Veterans" can be seen on the side of the bulb on top. William Jeffers began his carpentry career building caskets. Note the similarity in the water box. While it can't be seen, there is a number 3 painted on the side, which represents Columbian Engine Company #3.
1860 Hose Cart
This hand-pulled hose cart has an unknown manufacturer but was reportedly an original hose cart for Portland Fire & Rescue, which would have served until 1883. In 1883, the city developed a budget for the purchase of horses, which led to horse pulled hose wagons to accompany steam engines.
1866 Ladder Truck
This is Portland Fire & Rescue's first purpose-built ladder truck. While the department began service to the city on August 2, 1853, this truck would not be put into service until 1866 by Vigilance Hook & Ladder. Department reports from the time refer to it as "A Ladder Truck Built in this City in 1866." It was replaced in 1879 when the first horse drawn ladder truck would be purchased, a Hayes 2nd class. Interestingly, this was four years before horses were used by the fire department. It is believed that the volunteers of the day "pony-ed" up for horses to serve the time period until the city budget would provide for horses.
1879 Amoskeag Steam Engine
This steamer is manufacture #537, produced by the Manchester Locomotive Works in Manchester, New Hampshire. It was built in October 1878 and delivered to the City of Portland in 1879. Its original assignment was to Tiger Engine Company #5 where it replaced an aging hand pumper. It is a Class 4 Pumper, rated at 260 gallons per minute. It was originally designed to be “hand-pulled” but was converted for a team of two horses in 1883. It's final assignment was as Engine 9. The photo shows a 9, hand carved into the footboard across the front.
1911 American LaFrance Steam Engine
This steamer was the last horse drawn apparatus purchased by Portland Fire & Rescue. The motorized era had arrived in 1909 and the transition would be complete in 1920. This 3rd class steamer, rated at 600 gpm, would accompany numerous ALF steamers of the day. At some point, it was put into storage and a wall would eventually be built around it, perhaps for safe keeping. It was discovered in the 1970s, and a restoration would begin to bring it back to its former glory. It was completed in 1984 and it remains a showpiece today.
1918 American LaFrance Steam Engine
Apparatus 33 was one of the early motorized engines purchased by Portland. The horse-drawn era was sunsetting and this was the future of fire engines in Portland. It would serve for 10-15 years before going into reserve status. With the onset of World War II, it was offered to the volunteer Civil Defense Corp in Portland for use in their work. This would continue the Engine's service into the early 1950s when the department decided it was finally time to sell it at city auction. A man named Don Letson would purchase it in 1952 for $295. When he went to pick it up at the Logistics Center of Portland Fire, someone offered him the original wheels and other components that had been replaced with more modern pieces over the years. Apparently they had been stored away by some thoughtful mechanic. It carries the original paint today. When Don Letson passed in 2011, his family would donate it back to Portland Fire & Rescue in 2012.
1949 Mack Engine
Originally built as a Quad, this apparatus (Apparatus 17) was purchased and put into service by Portland Fire & Rescue in 1949. It survived the years of service and was kept in reserve status, being used for parades and other public functions. Over 70 years after it was put into service, it remains fully operational and is kept on the rolls as a reserve apparatus, still being celebrated in parades and serving in funerals.
Portland Fireboats are a unique chapter in Portland's apparatus history. From 1904 until today, fireboats have graced the Willamette and Columbia Rivers. Here are some below are some interesting elements of fireboat history.
The George Williams is pictured here, perhaps showing itself off in a trial when brand new in 1904.
Fireboats and the Harbor Patrol
Portland Firefighter Ty Walthers had no idea when he completed his probabion project in 1974 that he would be writing a history document. But here it is. Aside from great information about Portland Fireboats, it was an account of how the Harbor Patrol came under the jurisdition of Portland Fire.
Portland Fireboats are amazing machines. The Fireboats from beginning to today are listed here with all the specifications to share their capabilities.
The Sinking of the Virgil Spencer
Not every story has a happy ending, or a happy beginning. The Fireboat Virgil Spencer had a notable start to its service when it sank as it was being debuted to the citizens of Portland. Bill Powell, retired Superintendent of Apparatus, shared this account.
Retirement of the Fireboat David Campbell Video
All great things must come to an end. 2021 is slated to be the year that the Fireboat David Campbell is retired. Christened in 1927, with its identical sister boats, the Mike Laudenklos and the Karl Gunster, the David Campbell has survived and been a mainstay in Portland for nearly a century. This video chronicles its service and shows it off for one last time.
PORTLAND FIRE RIGS IN PRIVATE OWNERSHIP
If you have a former Portland Fire Apparatus and would like to see it featured here, please let us know through the "Contact Us" page. We will need a description, any Portland service details, and a quality photo.
1939 Kenworth "Stevens Disaster Unit"
The Stevens Disaster Unit (Apparatus 77) was one of Portland's first rescue units. Designed for many emergency purposes, it could also serve as a mobile field hospital. The photo shows it in it's early days and as it was unveiled to the public in a ceremony at the Civic Auditorium. It was last known to be in possession of a truck museum in Auburn, Indiana. They had no immediate plans for restoration. The PDF file below provides more detail about the storied history of the Stevens car
1891 - 1903 Hose Wagon #8
An incredible discovery linked together the tale of Hose Wagon 8, a Portland Fire hose wagon that retired, became a TV star, languished, then returned to glory. The attached PDF tells the interesting discovery and story.
1923 American LaFrance Engines (not one, but two!)
Newberg collector and historian, Matt Simek, owns two former Portland Fire apparatus. One is beautifully restored and the other is in the process. Formerly, Apparatus 50 and 51, these rigs are alive and well nearly 100 years after going into service. Read Matt's story here.
1953 FWD Tanker
While Tankers were neither common in Portland nor the most beautiful and sought after apparatus, Tanker 1 (Apparatus 28) has survived the years and is now in the possession of the Oregon Fire Museum in Brooks, Oregon. In Portland Fire Service, it has been seen in pictures at current day Station 6. The OFM is open periodically for visits and offer a wide variety of apparatus and equipment from Oregon Fire Service history.
1908 American LaFrance 2nd Class Steamer
In the hey day of the steam engine, this was a Portland Fire standard. Now in the possession of the Los Angeles County Fire Museum, Portland Engine 13 has been maintained over the years and is used in parades and other events. The number "13" can still be seen on the ends of the tool box under the seat. It is seen here, parade ready with a team of horses and crew in 2006.
1902 American LaFrance Extra 1st Class Steamer
This steamer was originally put into service in Portland in 1902. Two apparatus were built as Extra 1st Class (Engine 1 and 3) and had a pump capacity of 1,000 gpm. In 1916, these rigs still had life left in them and were too expensive to discard. ALF provided tractor kits to convert them to a front wheel drive, motorized steamer. Today, old Engine 3 sits on display at the Chemeketa Community College campus in Brooks, Oregon. It has been beautifully restored and is owned by Gary Foglio.
1907 American LaFrance 2nd Class Steamer
This 1907 American LaFrance steamer was built for Portland Fire and served as Engine 7 during its service. It was sold to Forest Grove Fire & Rescue 1935 for $150 and was used as a reserve pumper through the 1940s. It was restored in the 1970s for use in shows and parades.
1952 Maxim Engine
This 1952 Maxim was purchased by Portland Fire in 1952 as Apparatus 89. It would be assigned to Engine 7 for most of it's service career, which was located at 1036 SE Stark. In 1975, Station 7 moved to 5 SE Madison, on the east bank of the Willamette River and the four Maxim's purchased in 1952 would be replaced by seven FTI's purchased in 1975. Apparatus 89 would eventually serve as an advertising vehicle for Roth's Food Center, a Salem grocery store chain. It is now under the ownership of the Oregon Fire Service Museum. It is shown here wearing it's paint job from Roth's. No original photos have been found.
1951 Kenworth 4x4 Engine
This 1951 Kenworth 4x4 Engine was purchase by Portland Fire in 1951. It was one of five very similar rigs. This was designated Apparatus 82 and spent most of its service career as Engine 16, located at 4465 NW Yeon. The owner, Paul Cross of Salem, Oregon, has taken fantastic care of it. It was featured in a recent article in Vintage Fire Truck & Equipment Magazine (January/February 2018) in a story by Candace Brown. Check it out.