(Appeared on New Canaan Patch.com 11/17
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
New Canaan – Long-term goals and needs were the terms that kept popping up at the monthly Fire Commission meeting and have certainly been a focus for residents town-wide.
Commissioners Roger Williams, Sven Englund and Jack Horner as well as Chief Ed Karl, Fire Marshal Fred Baker and Assistant Chiefs Russell Kimes and Jack Hennessy met Tues Nov. 16 at the New Canaan Firehouse to cover an agenda that had long-range goals at its heart.
With regard to fire department equipment needs for the long-term, Hennessey presented a “wish list” of capital projects that is being tweaked for submission to the town the first week of January 2011. At the top of the list is a request for a Jaws of Life replacement, budgeted at $97K.
Said Williams, “Our current equipment is over 20 years old. Replacement is a necessity with a more advanced or higher tech version, due to the new construction of autos today. The metal technology and safety structure in new cars is both stronger, and roll cages are much more difficult to cut.”
Karl echoed Williams’ urgency, noting, “It takes an excessively long time to cut through some of the new cars. Audi’s and BMWs in particular. GM and other domestic auto manufacturers are now using the higher strength steel, too.”
Williams noted that a new Jaws of Life solution will be “two to three times more powerful than what we have” and that the equipment is particularly important as New Canaan is the primary responder for the Merritt Parkway, which he said is “all auto accidents.”
Another high priority on the capital projects list is a regional/mobile data system, pegged at $15K. Williams explained that the system consists of color display computer units that would be installed in the firetrucks and allow crews to access critical data about a structure as they arrive on the scene. Hennessey said the data would include building plans, water source locations, aerial photos, and gas and sewer line locations.
This mobile data system request is timely as Horner had reported attending a recent meeting of area first selectmen and fire chiefs to discuss long-term regional cooperation between small town fire departments. The ability for the NCFD to have this mobile technology can only enhance its ability to respond to situations and better help when called on by other towns.
Said Williams, “If the duty crew can access info more quickly, it can respond to challenges more quickly. It will have this at a push of a button.”
An additional budget priority is a new firetruck. Kimes is currently revising the economic underpinnings for the request, which is slotted at $610K – “as expensive as some building structures,” said Williams.
Engine #1 is 14 years old and Engine #4 is 10 years old. “When trucks start getting to 15 years, we start looking at replacing,” said Williams. He added, “A truck has been in the budget every year, and turned down every year. We did some fleet management changes this year to lengthen the service of the trucks in the fleet, but sooner or later, we will have to replace them. Even after budget approval, it would take approximately 18 months to two years to receive delivery.”
Williams summed up, “As the town is looking at long-range planning, so too are we. Localized resources and better hardware will provide a better level of fire safety to the residents of New Canaan.”