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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Firefighters Train on Richmondville Avenue

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Westport firefighters spent today and Tuesday training in live fires on Richmondville Avenue. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
By Jennifer Connic
and Dave Matlow

Dark gray and black smoke billowed out of the windows of the house at Westport’s 81 Richmondville Ave. today signaling fire inside.

The smoke could be spotted from several blocks away, and firefighters rushed inside to save the “victim” who was trapped on the second floor.

But there was no one truly in peril and the fire itself was controlled by several safety officers inside the building. It was part of a training session for Westport firefighters that began Tuesday and continued today.

On Tuesday, 30 off-duty firefighters were training, and today about 20 were at the house donated by the Chapman family, who plan to tear down the house this week.

Assistant Fire Chief Andy Kingsbury, the department’s training officer, said the firefighters were running through simulated bedroom fires with a victim.

The firefighters have to attack the fire and rescue the victim, he said, and working in the house is the only way a real fire can be simulated.

“It’s a block building at the Fire Academy, and that’s not what we deal with normally,” he said. “This house is also a confusing, nonstandard layout, so it’s good training. Not every house we go into these days has the standard layout any more.”

The family which owns the house has been watching the firefighters train over the last two days.

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Neighbor Karen Swanson (l-r), home owner Christine Chapman, neighbor Mark Palmer and neighbor Catherine Palmer watch firefighters train at the house Chapman owns on Richmondville. The Chapmans will tear down the house this week. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
Christine Chapman, who owns the house, stood and watched the training with two of her three children.

“I feel excited but very melancholy,” she said on Tuesday. “I’ve been up since 3 a.m. in anticipation of today’s event.”

Chapman said she and her husband spent a year trying to gain approvals from various town agencies for additions on the house, but things didn’t work out and they eventually gave up.

Instead, the couple decided to build a 4,300-square-foot modular house that will be ready in June, she said.

Kingsbury said the house is a nice place for firefighters to train because it’s near a fire hydrant, it’s on a dead end road and the neighbors have been good to work with.

Department officials hope to secure another house soon for a fall training session, Kingsbury said, and there are many offers.

“A lot of times, though, they don’t work out for many different reasons,” he said.

The training today was limited, however, because of windy conditions, Kingsbury said.

He said he wanted to burn the roof because he wants to expose firefighters to every condition they may encounter in a real fire.

With the wind, however, there could be a chance for wildfire, he said, and he wanted to prevent that from happening.

Posted 04/25/07 at 05:48 PM

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