Shelton fire: ‘Neighbors helping neighbors in a time of need’

Last week a fire destroyed a historic block in downtown Shelton. Being a Shelton native, I have witnessed various businesses moving in and out of that block.

That night, what I witnessed as I traveled over the Derby/Shelton Bridge to Viaduct Square were members of Echo Hose Hook & Ladder Company rushing into the building to save the lives of all the residents as smoke was billowing out of all the windows.

Flames engulfed the scene, trapping those on the third floor, who where rescued by firefighters.

There was no loss of life; everyone made it out of the building.

I saw a lot of good there that evening — from all those on the scene from Shelton’s four fire companies, and also those who came as mutual aid from Derby, Ansonia, Seymour, Newtown and Oxford. Fire companies from Monroe, Stratford and Trumbull arrived to staff our stations during the fire.

Those who were at the scene also had to contend with a broken water main and hydrants that were frozen. Tanker 59 and Huntington’s tanker/pumper shuttled water to the scene, and as quickly as they could unload the water, it was used on the blaze.

We also should thank the several other communities that provided tanker trucks with water.

A portion of the front of the building collapsed onto the side of Engine 4, but luckily no firefighters where in that area at the time.

The smoke was so thick at times that those fighting the fire could not even see the fingers in front of the faces.

Afterward, there where those who set up a donation center for people who lost everything in the fire. The outpouring of kindness from the residents of Shelton and the Valley, as well as beyond, was heart-warming.

Quickly, the second floor of the Echo Hose firehouse filled with clothing, food and gift cards for the displaced residents. Volunteers from the public folded the clothing by size for children and adults. They assisted in finding shoes to fit the residents.

Various restaurants — not only from the Valley, but from Stratford as well — donated food for those on fire watch and residents who lost their apartments.

U.S. Rep Rosa DeLauro and a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes held a meeting at Echo Hose, with various organizations such as Valley United Way, TEAM Inc., etc., for displaced residents as well as those who had lost their businesses.

The meeting’s goal was to provide information on what resources could be made available for them to get back on their feet quickly.

The outpouring of kindness that was shown after the Sandy Hook tragedy more than a year ago was rekindled here in Shelton. The heart of the Valley and surrounding communities showed what we are all about.

Unpaid firemen risked their lives along with medics and ambulance personnel. The spirit of neighbors helping neighbors in a time of need was alive and well in Shelton.

John “Jack” Finn is a Democratic alderman representing the First Ward.