Norwalk council scrutinizes fire safety, spending plans

These 5-inch hoses bought new in 2011 by the Norwalk Fire Department could function as a water main over the streets of Norwalk’s Cranbury section, Chief Denis McCarthy said Thursday.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy painted a picture for Common Council members Thursday night concerning the driest of topics: Norwalk’s Cranbury section.

The lack of a fire station in Cranbury came up early in the council Finance Committee’s hearing on the capital budget, which also touched upon snow removal at Norwalk Police headquarters, anticipated sidewalk repairs and improved lighting near the Maritime Aquarium.

McCarthy talked of the progress made on the new Norwalk fire headquarters, then progressed to the $400,000 worth of improvements planned for the Westport Avenue fire station, which services Cranbury from afar.

Councilmen Bruce Kimmel (D-District D) and Matt Miklave (D-District A) wanted to know about the feasibility of a fire station in Cranbury. Kimmel said it is dry in Cranbury, meaning there’s a fire risk, and there also isn’t any water to draw upon. But McCarthy said firefighters stationed in Cranbury would have little to do, as there aren’t many calls there.

The department recently replaced four-inch hoses with five-inch hoses, he said.

“Every rate payer pays less in fire insurance because we have the ability to essentially lay a water main for close to a mile with all of our apparatus,” he said. “It does take a little bit longer but we have the ability to overcome the problems with water supply.”

The council members’ interest also was peaked by Norwalk’s Deputy Police Chief David Wrinn’s comment that an outside vendor removes snow from the police headquarters parking lot.

Finance Director Thomas Hamilton has recommended $32,000 in the capital budget for a new pickup truck for the police department; Wrinn said it would assist in snow removal.

“Officers in the past have done plowing in the middle of the night,” Wrinn said. “They pull cars out, and rejigger; we can’t do that with a private vendor.”

Miklave thought that odd.

“I’m a little baffled at how we have a department that plows snow, and we’ve bought a lot of equipment for them, yet you have an incredibly important city department and you still have to go out and get it done,” he said.

Wrinn said large DPW trucks didn’t do well in the parking lot, and given the 24/7 nature of the department, the work needed to get done ASAP.

“It’s just more efficient for a small lot like ours that gets used all the time, it’s more efficient to do something like that than to try to pull somebody off the street,” he said. “You want those guys to clear the roads.”

The department also is slated to get $60,000 for a new prisoner transport van. The old one is about 20 years old, Wrinn said, with not a lot of miles on it, but a lot of rust.

The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency plans to make it easier for pedestrians to get to the eastbound side of the South Norwalk train station, Executive Director Tim Sheehan said. The stairs to Flax Hill will also be improved, he said.

Hamilton has also recommended $200,000 to improve lighting on North Water Street.

The Planning and Zoning Department is slated to get $100,000 in capital budget funds to improve sidewalks, part of the recently approved Master Plan of Development.

“The council made a big decision last year,” Director Mike Greene said. The plan is to fill in the gaps on routes 1 and 7 where there are no sidewalks. “This is something, in years’ past, we said ‘wait and let the state do it.’ Now we’re saying we should fill the gaps because it’s not a safe situation.”


17 responses to “Norwalk council scrutinizes fire safety, spending plans”

  1. LWitherspoon

    Approximately how much new sidewalk does $100,000 buy? Anybody know?

  2. Tim T

    The department also is slated to get $60,000 for a new prisoner transport van. The old one is about 20 years old, Wrinn said, with not a lot of miles on it, but a lot of rust.

  3. Tim T

    Why isn’t the DPW plowing the police station lot with one of their many pickups??Hey maybe they can charge the NPD time and a half as the NPD does when working for another city agency..

  4. Mario B

    Does anyone fact-check the stuff that comes out of Denis McCarthy’s mouth? I spoke with a rep of the insurance industry today who said every town, and sometimes areas of towns, is given a Protection Class Rating that relates to its water supply. According to the rep payer rates have ZERO to do with the fire departments ability to lay long stretches of fire hose. To think otherwise is ridiculous. Although it’s never been done the NFD can lay a mile of hose. However in the Cranbury section of town involving a house/building fire doing so would realistically take 30 to 60 minutes or more under ideal conditions with call ups and additional alarms, not “a little bit longer” as McCarthy said. Keep in mind a single room can be engulfed in flames in under 6 minutes. If your house is burning you wouldn’t mind waiting “a little bit longer” would you?
    The numbers I heard recently for the expansion of the Westport Ave. fire station were on the north side of $600k not the $400K McCarthy stated. Can you give the people the real number Denis and can we hold you to it? Does any Norwalk taxpayer mind a Fairfield resident spending more of their money? Would someone please make Denis McCarthy prove factually the things he says.

  5. Spanner

    This kinda goes in line with things like letting the fuel for emergency backup at the police station go out because no one checked the gauge, this is where the fire dept’s nerve center is isn’t it?

    New station? The one on East Norwalk should be closed its disgusting how that station is set up for a quick dispatch knowing all the details before the engine has left the apron. Norwalk rents this station its time to maybe its time to have a audit so the council can understand and trust the facts before any more money is slipped under the door disguised as fire safety.

    New hose? What about the tanker it was a big deal one election year where is it and does it actually work? What did McCarthy say about the tanker?

    That condo that burned to the ground was a good lesson for no water at a fire behind the Merritt buildings who learned from that?

    We have the new fire boat where was the cost running that? So far the only time the boat was needed was for a bridge fire next to the Aquarium but no one had the number for the State of Ct to open the bridge how sad was that during the big storm? No one in the city ever planned on an emergency at King Industries?

    Dig deep there is a lot of waste and nonsense within the fire dept maybe asking the right questions would of resulted in an uncomfortable fire chief.

    Why not inquire why the fire dept doesn’t have an ambulance? They make money for a city, a new ambulance in another city this week talks about the golden hour, Norwalk’s take on the golden hour is not getting the victim to the hospital within the hour but to get an ambulance to your home within a hour. Ask your police officers they have to wait with the victim without any equipment.

    Where did all the defibs go and does Norwalk fire have one for all trucks? Do they have any at all?

    They talk not enough work to keep a station yet East Norwalk sits empty while they are on the fire boat with no coverage for that part of the city, with traffic on 95 and bridge that opens East Norwalk is somewhat left without anyone for a quick response. Yes there is a lot of pro and con here in my post but there is even more Con in what the city is told or what its not told.

    The new fire truck could of been three smaller, more effective, trucks for our city instead we are left with a truck that has more training hours on it than actual service. Doesn’t fit on most streets etc.

    McCarthy said, Keep in mind a single room can be engulfed in flames in under 6 minutes

    I can only imagine how much fire science has gone into planning Norwalk’s future, we have one of the highest paid fire departments in the State with the smallest return.

    How much is the new fire boat costing us and why is the old one that was always taken out of the water still in its slip at Vets park? This free fire boat came with strings and at a huge cost that never was run by the taxpayers.

    Last couple of arson fires produced no arrests one fire evidence was lost how does that assure any one of us the city has it under control?

    But we have great firefighters who have many complaints about firefighter safety that a raise in pay does not fix.

    Some of the fires in Norwalk recently produced injured firefighters where is the information on them and have they returned or not,when you have firemen out of work due to injury some for months maybe its time as suggested in the past an audit by other professionals who can not only pinpoint waste but suggest things that can make it safe for our firefighters and those who they help. (us)

    When listing the amount of firefighters in Norwalk recently there was mention of a half of a firemen a .5 only in Norwalk folks.

    Questions on how the dept is run, overtime policy on the water what it lacks and condition of the trucks and the time frame to replace must of already been talked about and the council must of been well versed on all of this before the meeting.

    Isn’t any water to draw upon. No pools no rivers no storm drains no bodies of water maybe its time to open a city pool in the Cranbury section of the city to draft from it would only make sense at this point.

    1. At last week’s BET meeting it was mentioned that the cost for fuel for the new fireboat is budgeted at $25,000.

  6. spanner

    Wrinn said large DPW trucks didn’t do well in the parking lot, and given the 24/7 nature of the department, the work needed to get done ASAP.

    This last storm 4 officers had to shovel out cars and take them to the DPW to have chains put on them, you would think before the storm a police captain would have them driven over before the storm? Does Tom know what happens when he is not around?

    Rilling use to use the The T parking garage in storms so the lot would empty for the dpw that has more than enough small plows including backhoes to do the job.(I’m not buying Tom’s story). That garage is never filled and yes plenty of room for a shift full of cars. (What do you think Stamford does?)

    “Officers in the past have done plowing in the middle of the night,” Wrinn said this doesn’t say they ever used the parking garage there must be some communication breakdown here.

    Who has Tom picked for plowing, Deering or that landscaping company who had owners and employees breaking into homes they were contracted out to service? That was great story that got away. Landscaping company name started with a M.

    Norwalk needs to help the council they should have a tipline where us poor taxpayers held at Moccias bay can reach out and plant some great information on how things are run now. (The same as before with the existing mayor).

    “It’s just more efficient for a small lot like ours that gets used all the time, it’s more efficient to do something like that than to try to pull somebody off the street,”

    Yep, four officers and four cars sitting for an hour waiting for a Spanish speaking officer from Stamford is not wasting time?

    Next we will hear the police department has run out of gas, why doesn’t Norwalk have one large tank as it stands now Norwalk has a lot of little ones that need filling all the time. This must be expensive not buying bulk for such a line item.

    Its only our money isn’t it.

  7. Mario B

    I dig your passion and the “handle” too. I just wanted to clear up a few points if you don’t mind. The firefighters of the NFD have a great reputation in the region for getting the job done. Kudos to them! The East Norwalk fire station is old, historic actually, but an important piece of the puzzle for fire protection in the city…..more on that later.
    New fire stations are extremely expensive because they’re specialized buildings, renting may be a cheaper option.
    You are on point about the station being empty while the crew is training or responding to an emergency on the water but more importantly protection of the district of East Norwalk is severely compromised by the McCarthy’s current cover plan; There’s another story for you Nancy if you want it!
    King Industries employs a very well trained Safety Crew, essentially an in-house fire brigade. They deal quite well with “incidents” on a regular basis however the potential for disaster is high. Having McCarthy as the liaison between King and the NFD scares me though.
    All NFD fire trucks carry defibrillators and firefighters are trained for their use. The FD is better suited to respond to medical emergencies than the PD. The NPD officers are supposed to have them in their cars as well, I can’t answer as to why they don’t.
    I said “…a single room can be engulfed in flames in under 6 minutes.” I’m not sure McCarthy would know that.
    ………climb aboard spanner, there’s room for more!

  8. BARIN

    @ Mario B,
    Was Mccarthy ever a firefighter or just an administrator?
    If he never fought a fire, how can he know what it takes to do the job, reading a book doesn’t count.
    Leadership reflects attitude, morale on the department is at an all time low, due to his leadership.
    What are his qualifications, he came from Westport, not as diverse a community as Norwalk, and he has had numerous problems with his treatment of African American employees of the department here, as well as issues with the lack of minority representation here and on the Westport Fire department BEFORE he was hired here.
    Why was he hired for the job in Norwalk, and more importantly, why is he still here?
    I forgot his contract was renewed by the current administration, without answering any of the questions in regard to his history of treatment of minorities, prior to renewing his contract.
    I answered my own question; politics and cronyism!
    Changes in leadership across the board from top to bottom is the only way to right our listing ship, that change has to start somewhere, it may as well be at the fire department.
    It is not the men of the department that create problems with morale, these men are highly motivated to protect and serve our city.
    Why don’t we ask them what they think, it would make a great story I’m sure.
    I’ve said it before and here it is again, ALL, repeat ALL department heads should live in Norwalk, period.

  9. oldtimer

    Interview firefighters ? How many do you think would be willing to speak freely to a reporter ? It could make a great story, but the interviews would have to be set up in a way that assured anonymity. Any suggestions on how that could be arranged ? Any appointee is pretty much expected to back up whatever the mayor says or does and moccia would be very unhappy with firemen, or cops, who spoke directly to reporters about how their departments are run.

  10. BARIN

    That’s why we have Nancy Oldtimer, I think their anonymity would be well protected by her or Mark.
    All residents should be aware of how our city departments are run, if the mayor is unhappy we must be doing something right by asking questions.
    I would think the mayor would want to be sure departments are doing fine, especially if he wants to be re-elected.
    Besides, the transparency is what we’re looking for anyway.
    If something is wrong for our city I hope the people protecting us would step up and speak out, if they know something is wrong and do nothing, they’re just as guilty.

  11. Mario B

    @ BARIN and oldtimer,
    The story, as I was told, is McCarthy was a firefighter for the first 6 years of his career in Westport. He didn’t like getting his hands dirty, not that way anyway, so he got into what’s called “day personnel” then eventually overachieved his way up to the chief’s position there. He ran into “issues”, BARIN you touched on one, and bailed from Westport when former mayor Alex Knopp announced the sham of a nationwide search for a new chief after Anderson retired. It’s been said McCarthy was brought in to bust the union and become Knopps inside man because of contractual difficulties between local 830 and City Hall. It didn’t work out too well for Knopp. Unfortunately the firefighters union is going through similar difficulties with this administration.,
    And yes, BARIN, McCarthy’s contract was prematurely renewed by the current administration after hearing leaks that the union was about to issue a vote of “no confidence” against him, which it did, and which has never been rescinded. Word is McCarthy convinced Moccia to renew his contract asap to save his job. McCarthy is a master of “spin”, very good at convincing others to do what’s in his best interest, unless you can see through it.
    As for asking the firefighters what they think I already know what that is, the ones with at least 10 years anyway. And although it would make great copy they would be putting themselves at a risk they are not accustomed to, and the administration knows that, BUT word is spreading. Pressure, questioning, needs to come from the community directed at the Mayor, the Council members, and the Fire Commissioners whom have all become mutes to this point. People like you can do this. The ENTIRE community deserves answers and action.

  12. spanner

    No matter what, we all must thank the firefighters, they did great job tonight. Channel twelve shows them saving a deer, they did just that. Be nice, if they are all thanked by the city they deserve it.

    1. I got this press release from Norwalk Fire Deputy Chief Stephen Shay:

      Tonight at 2013 hrs Norwalk Fire and Police Departments rescued a deer that was hung up on a fence. The deer apparently tried to jump over the fence and caught its back leg on the top of the fence.
      We wrapped the deer up in a blanket so it could not see and then we lifted it up and over. As soon as it hit the ground it ran off into the woods.

  13. spanner

    A update on fire boats: today both boats were out on the water and no one at the fire station in East Norwalk. Maybe McCarthy was right if there was another station they would be covering East Norwalk and no time to hang around the station. But wait wasn’t the new fire station for extensive training where all the firefighters would be during the day? Someone may want to tell Dennis most fires and emergencies happen between midnight and 6 am making the Cranbury station vital for those fires that require a fast first response. Even medical calls are early in the morning as well maybe its time we have a question tip hotline for Matt and Bruce I’m sure there are enough of us to suggest some good questions.

    Thanks for the link, Old Timer — 40 grand to rent the East Norwalk station and because of its historic place in Norwalk there will never be more than an engine there, leaving the city and any RIT team without the equipment in ladder trucks. Then the expense to run the building starts adding up I’m not convinced a new station with state of the art fire equipment would be a bad investment for both taxpayers and firefighters. Honestly, what was seen last summer, could of used the building inspector and health board for that old station in East Norwalk. Fuel electric and other expenses including doors are all costing us money for a station we rent not a great deal in today’s real Estate market.

  14. Mario B

    @ Nancy
    Keep up the great work!

  15. @Spanner: “McCarthy said, Keep in mind a single room can be engulfed in flames in under 6 minutes”

    Just for a teeny clarifying point on a GREAT post, McCarthy didn’t say that, it was written in the blog as information from Mario (it is Mario’s statement).

    Mario B March 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm
    …”However in the Cranbury section of town involving a house/building fire doing so would realistically take 30 to 60 minutes or more under ideal conditions with call ups and additional alarms, not “a little bit longer” as McCarthy said. Keep in mind a single room can be engulfed in flames in under 6 minutes.

    But just the same, MANY very interesting, thought-provoking posts (14 of the 16, at least)

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