Pilot Butte fire station finally gets first engine, with a little ‘push’ from kids
(Update: Adding video, comments from Bend fire chief)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend Fire and Rescue added a new engine to its fleet Tuesday, for the first time a long time, and some of the youngest members of the community provided the people power to put it in place, ceremonially speaking.
It's the first fire engine added to Bend's fleet in more than two decades. It's also the first fire engine to be based at Station 306 since it was completed and opened more than three years ago -- and after years of sitting nearly idle, this fire station is expected to become the city's busiest.
Bend Fire & Rescue crews and officials, community members and Bear Creek Elementary students gathered to see the city's new fire engine and for the kids to give it a ceremonial push into the fire station, at the base of Pilot Butte.
A happy, excited crowd watched, applauded and cheered as the Bear Creek students "pushed" the fire truck into its new home at Station 306.
"Our data tells us that when we staffed this station and when we start operating the fire engine out of here, it will be our busiest fire engine in the city," Fire Chief Todd Riley said.
Station 306 was finished in 2019, but has only housed a medic unit and ambulance, not a fire engine, due to limited staff and funding.
"We haven't added a fire engine to our deployment in 23 years," Riley said. "I think we can all appreciate how much Bend has changed in those years. Adding this fire engine will not only help us fight fires, but will also respond to emergency medical incidents, (which) is really important."
When the station was ready in 2019, Bend Fire lacked the money to staff it. Short-term city funding has now made it possible to staff, but taxpayers will be asked soon to help long-term.
Thanks to a partnership between the City of Bend, Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District, and the community, Bend Fire & Rescue is now able to staff an engine at this fire station.
"We are a levy fire department, but we haven't changed the levy rates since 2014," Riley said. "We're operating on revenue from 10 years ago. The cost of doing business has increased, the cost to add staff requires an additional revenue."
"We're going to be asking the voters this May to increase the levy amount to not only help pay for the firefighters who are going to occupy this station today, but also to add another ambulance onto the road," the fire chief added.
Nolan McGinnis has worked at two other Bend fire stations, and as a floating engineer, in his seven years with Bend Fire before getting this permanent spot at Station 306.
"We've been waiting for this moment for a long time," McGinnis said. "To be the first crew to put this engine and house in service means a lot for the citizens of Bend. We get to provide more efficient, timely response for our citizens, and that means a lot to us."
Now, McGinnis is ready to get to work from this new, central location.
"I think we're all excited to be busy, and we're all ready to face the challenge," he said.
The “push-in” ceremony has been a fire department tradition since the 1800s, in which residents help push the new fire truck into the station, to celebrate the start of its service to the community.
“We are excited to have an engine responding from the core of our city, which will improve our response times to emergencies in both the city and the rural district," Riley said.