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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Budget Proposal Could Include More Firefighters

By Jennifer Connic

Westport First Selectman Gordon Joseloff is still reviewing budget proposal from the various town departments, but he today he said he needs to give serious consideration to a fire department proposal that could include more firefighters.

Joseloff said he has finished half of the budget sessions with the department directors and everyone is doing their best to keep their costs down.

“But we have told them to let us know their needs, and we will look at them carefully,” he said.

One area is with the Westport Fire Department, he said, which is expected to bring forward a renewed request to increase the number of firefighters on the variety of engines.

No one has said the specifics of a proposed budget, but both Joseloff and Fire Chief Christopher Ackley said the plan would be to increase the number of firefighters on each engine from two to three.

In 2001, town officials added four new firefighters to the department to increase the number of firefighters on the engine at fire headquarters from two to three.

Department officials then spoke of the need for at least three firefighters on an engine, and again they are speaking of that need.

Joseloff said emergency preparedness and security are of a great concern to him and the town needs to be better prepared.

“I need to give (the fire department’s proposal) serious consideration,” he said. “If we can do it in stages, that would be better.”

There are safety issues to consider, he said, to both firefighters and homeowners.

“There is not a lot the firefighters can do when they pull up to a burning building,” he said. “The protocol is you can’t go in alone, especially in a rescue situation. You need to work in a buddy system inside the building.”

In addition to two firefighters working on the engines in Coleytown, Saugatuck and Green’s Farms, Ackley said, two firefighters jump between the ladder truck and the rescue truck.

“We’re the last department in Fairfield County to do that,” he said. “It’s time we have a fully-staffed fire department. We need to be proactive and not wait for a crisis. The crisis is coming, but I don’t know what it is.”

Having three people working on an engine, he said, forms a company that makes for better supervision and efficient work.

There can be up to 11 firefighters inside a fiery building with the assistant chief in charge of the scene, he said, and it puts the firefighters at risk.

And the supervision and efficiency is not contained to just fires, he said, but in everything the firefighters do, including when they are on the highway attending to a car accident.

It can also decrease the amount of injuries to firefighters, Ackley said.

At a fire on Harbor Road, he said, there were not enough firefighters on the scene to move the hose fast enough or ventilate the roof.

One of his firefighters, as a result, lost his hearing when an aerosol can burst next to his ear, he said.

“How many times do we want that to happen?” he asked. “We can do better.”


Posted 01/30/07 at 10:25 PM  Permalink


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