Monday, January 26, 2009

Westfield Fire Marshall to speak in Westfield

Art Higgins, Fire Marshall of the Westfield Fire Department, will be the featured speaker at tonight's quarterly meeting of the Westfield Residents Association. He will be joined by Ed Dypa, a longtime volunteer fireman in Westfield. Higgins and Dypa will present tips for preventing fires during cold weather, and will also discuss recent actions by Common Council.
7:00PM, January 26
3rd Congregational Church
94 Miner Street (just a few blocks from the Westfield Fire station on East Street)
The Westfield Fire District was chartered by state law as independent of the Middletown's central fire department (South District is also independent). Westfield Residents pay the lowest tax rate for fire protection in Middletown by far, benefiting from a relatively high tax base because of all the industrial development in Westfield, and from being staffed almost entirely by volunteer fire fighters (only 2 out of over 50 firefighters are paid). In January, the Common Council voted to authorize a committee to study the cost of providing fire services. Although this resolution specifically stated that a merger of the fire districts was not to be on this committee's agenda, residents in Westfield are concerned what this "City-wide Fire Services Cost Committee" will recommend.

The Westfield Fire Department's newsblog currently features recommendations for dealing with water pipes in cold weather.

1 comment:

Lieutponz said...

As Mr. Devoto mentions, residents of the Westfield Fire District pay the lowest tax rate in the city for fire coverage - by a wide margin. As shown on the City of Middletown web site (, the mill rates are 5.00 for the Central District, 3.381 for South District, and 0.998 for the Westfield District. I don’t think there’s any question about the necessity for fully paid, career-staffed fire departments for the Central and South Districts. The call volumes are higher than could be supported by an all or part-volunteer force. In the Westfield District, coverage through a largely volunteer force is appropriate given the call volume, enthusiasm and professionalism of its volunteer members, and quality of its relationships with mutual aid fire departments like Middletown, South District, Cromwell, and Middlefield. I also don’t think there’s any question about how well the Middletown (Central) Fire Department, Westfield Fire Department and South Fire District are run – Chief Ouellette, Chief Lockwood and Chief Ed Badamo, their officers and the firefighters of all 3 departments do a fine job. So, it’s funny/concerning to me that anyone on the Common Council would feel it necessary to commission (and pay for) a study to better understand costs relative to the 3 fire departments/districts. The largest contributing factors to the differences in mill rates are salaries and benefits for each districts’ employees. Secondary to that would (probably) be facilities and apparatus maintenance. I’m sure that the study will find a few cost-cutting ideas here and there, but let’s keep in mind that a fire department sets budgets, policies and procedures (all with associated cost) for very good reasons – some of which are understandably not readily apparent to civilians. I hope that the Common Council will give the 3 chiefs and the commissioners from each of the 3 fire districts their fair time to read and respond to the findings of the study before it is disseminated to the general public.

While we all wait anxiously for the cost study to be published, below are some tangible, realistic, everyday things we can all do to reduce our costs for fire and EMS coverage:

1. Do not call 911 for non-emergencies.
2. Use reasonable judgment in assessing when to call 911 – splinters, stomach aches, etc. can usually be handled through other channels (of course, when in doubt, call 911).
3. Do not park in no-parking / fire zones.
4. Post your house number in such a way that it is clearly visible from the street in the dark when traveling by the house at the posted speed limit.
5. Shovel the snow away from sidewalks, paths, steps and fire hydrants that are on or near your property. If you’re physically unable to do so, call the fire department non-emergency number for your district.
6. Address known problems with your house in advance – make sure the sump pump works before it rains, make sure smoke detectors are functioning, service your furnace/boiler regularly to prevent inefficient burning, make sure your fireplace and furnace/boiler flues are clear, store fireplace ashes in specifically designated metal containers, etc.
7. Keep your house clear of unnecessary debris – if you need fire/EMS help, it can only be provided as fast as the fire/EMS teams can find you, treat you and bring you to safety.
8. Signal, pull over to the side of the road and stop completely when you hear or see an emergency vehicle approaching. Coasting by slowly is often the most dangerous way to handle an approaching emergency vehicle.
9. Exit your residence if you hear a fire alarm sounding.

There are probably many more suggestions – but I hope you get the point. Reduce the number of responses, reduce the time per call, and improve the overall safety of civilians and responders.

Darrell Ponzio
Lieutenant - Westfield Fire Department and
Resident of the Westfield District of the City of Middletown