Chief: Data shows no reason to expect ‘strain’ on department
Various opinions haven’t affected fire family
Shelton Fire Chief Francis Jones said data collected since 2003 indicates that new developments on Bridgeport Avenue won’t affect the Fire Department’s ability to do its job despite questions from firefighters and and the public.
A letter sent out by Pine Rock Volunteer Fire Co. #4 two weeks ago said funds would need to be raised in order to prepare for a “strain” on that area’s individual department to meet increased demand.
Jones also said that since the letter was published, there is still “normal” communication between the four fire companies and its staff.
“We don’t want to give off the impression that because we have different opinions on this topic that we are not all on the same page,” Jones said. “We are all constantly preparing and planning to keep the people of Shelton as safe as possible.”
The most substantial application for Bridgeport Avenue that has been heard by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission is the much discussed, 411-unit, mixed-use development that would be called Towne Center at Shelter Ridge. The commission recently announced it would make its decision by Jan. 30, 2017. P&Z may deny, approve, or approve the application with modifications.
During the Dec. 13 P&Z meeting, it was announced that both Pine Rock and Echo Hose fire departments would respond to emergencies on the 121-acre property.
Pine Rock Volunteer Fire Capt. Justin Sabatino said he stands behind the letter his department sent to residents, and said his reason for seeking additional money was that the growth of the city requires a growth of its fire department.
Jones emphasized that each one of the four volunteer fire companies within the city operates independently. He said the opinion stated in the “poorly written fundraiser letter” is not a representation of how the rest of the city’s fire companies think development will affect its ability to do its job.
Jones acknowledged that over the past two years Pine Rock Fire Co. has seen an increase in calls, but attributed that increase to the allocation of specific equipment.
“They have had a spike in calls but simply because of the resource allocation,” Jones said. “They have a specific vehicle that now goes to another district, which they weren’t assigned to two years ago. So they’ll see more calls, but the city of Shelton hasn’t seen more calls …
Company 4’s district now includes the Bridgeport Avenue corridor up to Commerce Drive, Enterprise Drive and the entire Bridgeport Avenue from Long Hill Crossroads down. They’ve also taken over part of Buddington Road because one of the city’s ladder trucks went out of service and another is out for refurbishment.”
Jones said one fire company covering another fire company’s territory is normal practice for the city while a piece of equipment is out of service. He clarified that once the city regains the service of both ladder trucks, Pine Rock will be relieved of some of its new territory.
“I totally understand residents’ concern. The mailman dropped the letters off during the afternoon and when I woke up the next morning I was getting calls ... asking what it was all about.”
The letter sent by the Pine Rock Fire Department was shared on a Facebook page created by a community group that has openly opposed the Shelter Ridge application. Save Our Shelton, or S.O.S, shared a copy of the letter to its Facebook page where Captains of the Echo Hose and Huntington Fire Department commented on the message read in the Pine Rock letter.
“... I'm the Captain of the Huntington Fire Company and am all for the Town’s redevelopment and growth as long as it reflects the residents approval. While there may be added emergency call volume I assure you our members will be trained and ready for the new potential call situations that we may be called into. And our fundraising efforts will reflect that,” Capt. Jason Mitchell’s comment reads.
Echo Hose Volunteer Fire Capt. Joe Clark said he agrees with Mitchell’s statements.
Citing data he said has been collected over 10 years, Jones compared the Shelter Ridge application’s projected call volume to the already existing and large developments, R.D Scinto’s The Renaissance, which is 17 stories, and the Avalon building downtown Shelton, which has 250 units.
“With a large development such as the Scinto development, which a ton of people were also against, a person might expect a lot of calls to be generated,” said Jones. “It’s not the case at all. Over the past five years there has been a total of three incidents we have had to respond to. That’s less than one call a year on average.”
Jones said there is no “secret formula” used to calculate the effect a new development will have on emergency call volume.
“It’s based off of the data we have collected over the years and developments of similar size and structures,” said Jones. “We expect in the first few years that there could be an increase in calls, but from our experience they’re usually minor. Smoke alarms being set off or other minor things that will need to be tweaked. The number of calls usually decreases after those first few years of adjustments. We don’t see anything to worry about that training and preparation won’t address.”