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PEOPLE OF PORTLAND FIRE

 


Looking For A Past Portland Firefighter?

Are you wondering about a relative or other person who may have been a Portland Firefighter over the past 170 years or so?  Maybe this web site can help.  If you have a name, we probably have it catlogued in the archives.  Contact us by the e-mail link below and see if there is more to their story.

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to contact PortlandFireHistory
 

 

Fire Chiefs

The backbone of Portland Fire & Rescue has always been the front line firefighter.  More than 5,000 people have served in this capacity since the department placed its first crew into service in 1853.  However, leadership is necessary to complete the package.  Fire Chiefs make up this leadership, in particular, the Chief Engineer.  

The term Chief Engineer was coined in the very beginnings of the department.  In the early 1850s, Portland established a fire commission to choose a Chief Engineer to head up the department.  The term would change to "Chief" when the Portland Fire Department" became the "Portland Paid Fire Department," but the concept was the same.  

The PDF below provides a list of all Chiefs who have led Portland Fire since it began in 1853.  Some held the position more than once.  Four Chiefs served in both the Portland Fire Department AND Portland Paid Fire Department eras.  One, David Campbell, would serve two terms as Chief because his position was interrupted by political strife.  

 

Fire Marshals

The Fire Marshals of Portland carry significant power to make or break the business structure of the city.  To this end, it had been a civil service position from 1914 until recent years, in the early 2000s to insulate it from political influence.  Why the change?  Unknown.  

Established March 18, 1914, the Fire Prevention Division has grown and evolved into a comprehensive and professional discipline within the fire service.  The PDF below is a list of all those who have led the division since 1914.

David Kingsley

David Kingsley is one of the most heroic stories to be found among Portland Firefighters.  His heroism, however, was not for fighting a fire.  It occurred during World War II.  Many Portland Firefighters were deployed into service during various wars.  During WWII, it was estimated that almost half of all Portland Firefighters spent some time in military service.  It should be no surprise that the same time period accounts for quite a few line of duty deaths during firefighting service.  David Kingsley did not serve long with Portland Fire, but his story is an amazing tale.  

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Jefferson Morris

 

Jeff Morris was a unique and dynamic character of Portland Fire whose life was cut short by cancer.  He was a pioneer in public education and became known as Portland Fire's "Ambassador to Goodwill."  Read his story in the PDF below.

 

Jay W. Stevens

Jay W. Stevens came to work for Portland Fire in 1904.  He would quickly advance, eventually becoming the first Fire Marshal of the city.  He would take his prevention ethic to a national level, eventually becoming known nationally as the "Father of Fire Prevention."  Read his story here. 

 
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Clarence Baker

 

Clarence Baker may not be the most notable name in Portland Fire history.  However, his contribution was unique, and his retention of his hiring and promotion documents was also special.  These were shared with Portland Fire archives and pieced together in his story here.  

 

Colonel Montgomery

 

Portland Firefigher Colonel Montgomery was hired in 1910.  His story is unique because his family retained his original hiring letter, signed by David Campell.  See these amazing documents in his story.   

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Captain Al Sherk and the Sherk Hose Belt
 
You may not know that the hose belts long used by Portland Firefighters were actually developed by a Portland Firefighter.  Al Sherk innovated the devices that were loved/hated by Portland Firefighters for decades.  Read the stories and the instructions for these important firefighting tools. 

 

Gus Waterford - Portland's First Black Firefighter
 
Gus Waterford was Portland's first black firefighter, blazing the trail in the 1890s.  His path was not easy, however.  Learn about Gus and the scholarship fund that commemorates him today. 

 

Portland Firefighters Stephen Skidmore and Henry Weinhard
 
While history has remembered both of these men and their contributions to the City of Portland, their connection through Portland Fire is rarely mentioned.  The rest of that story is here. 

 

Chief Fire Investigators
 
The position of Chief Fire Investigator was created in 1964.  While the Investigation Unit, created in 1918, has always had a person to head it up, it was informally assigned until 1964 when it became a appointed position.  It was likely intended to be a Chief Officer when created, but was filled over the years by Senior Inspectors, Captains, and Staff Captains.  Those having served in the position or listed in the PDF here. 

 
 

Aaron Frank - Honorary Fire Chief
 
Aaron Frank is the only known "Honorary Fire Chief" of Portland Fire.  If you've heard of the Meier and Frank Department store franchise, and if you've heard of the Jay Steven's Disaster Car, you'll appreciate how this came to be.  Read on for details. 

Oscar H. Peterson - "You're Hired!"
 
A pair of letters addressed to Oscar Peterson were found in the wall of a Portland home, acknowledging his appointment to Portland Fire.  While this would begin his career in 1924, it ended in a sad way.  Read on for details.

 
 

Harry Morgan
 
Harry Morgan served as Chief Engineer of the Portland Volunteer Fire Department and as Fire Chief of the Portland Paid Fire Department.  But that isn't the amazing part of the story.  A commemorative badge was given to him by the membership.  After 134 years, it returned to Portland Fire.  What a story!