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Multnomah County Medics Excel at Five-Alarm Fire



On March 12, AMR was dispatched to assist Multnomah County agencies and Portland Fire
and Rescue (PF&R) in the evacuation of citizens from the “hot zone” of five-alarm fire at a recycling business where the air pollution reached dangerous levels in nearby residential neighborhoods. The grounds contained crushed cars and old tires.
AMR was asked to provide employees, wearing respiratory protection, to retrieve non-injured residents and remove them to a safe area where they could be transferred to public transportation and taken to a shelter for the night.
“PF&R was facing a significant threat to the downwind neighborhoods and without AMR’s assistance, we would have had difficulties mitigating this incident,” said Tom Williams, Division Chief, PF&R. “The mutual aid and cooperation of our neighbors in the region is a valued privilege that we strongly appreciate. As you are always there for us, we will always be there for you.”
AMR selected two employees for this task, Zach Hall and Danny Sellars, who worked exceptionally well together on M340. Zach’s position as a part-time supervisor was invaluable in this scenario as he could gain access to the supplies needed for the mission without needing to go back to Multnomah County Operations.
Zach and Danny obtained the necessary equipment, including masks, cartridges, and a second ambulance, and they were ready for their first evacuations. Both did an outstanding job interpreting the shorthand and rapid-fire text messages from Operations Supervisor, Samantha Katterman-Stekhuizen, who was sending information on evacuees. It was challenging as the information Samantha was receiving was not always complete. Zach and Danny were persistent, patient and creative in finding solutions to get people to safety.
This was a mission far above and beyond the normal duties we ask of our employees. The dark, smoke-filled, deserted environment was intimidating enough by itself. Then to have the pressure of assisting people to safety in the timeliest manner possible, while wearing a mask that is uncomfortable, hot and awkward, and not the most reassuring to the evacuees, adds a level of challenge beyond what many are able to do.
Zach and Danny not only rose to the challenge, they embraced it and accomplished the goal with remarkable success. They evacuated 31 people and two cats from the hot zone while maintaining excellent personal safety and customer service.
Story submitted by Samantha Katterman-Stekhuizen, Operations Supervisor, Multnomah County