Instead of cutting the ribbon on a new Danbury Fire Department training building, the Jaws of Life cut through a metal pole. Danbury Fire Department training used to be done in a construction trailer. Since April, members of the Danbury Fire Department have been taking classes in their new 6,000 square foot facility on Plumtrees Road. The new facility has been 10 years in the planning, since the rebuilding of the burn tower, which is also located on the property.
The new training classroom is also being used by 30 other fire departments around the region.
Maura Juan, principal architect at 72Architects, worked with Chief TJ Weidl and Assistant Cheif Mark Omasta on the interior layout, free of charge. She then shared the information with Friar Associates who continued the design work. Hawley Construction and Nozzle Construction also worked on the project. The overall cost was about $1.1 million.
Wiedl says in a time when other communities are making cuts in training and in facilities, they are blessed to have a community that takes care of the Fire Department. He added that the Department will never let the community down.
Omasta says a major drainage project doubled the useable size of the property.
In the old construction trailer classroom, Training Officer Steven Rogers had to use a projector and could only teach to 10 students at a time. Now there is state of the art technology, including a touch screen interactive smartboard. In theory, the Fire Department could take a picture of every building in Danbury and use it for training purposes by adding a virtual fire and discuss how to tackle it.
Rogers says they are constantly training to keep up on skills. Once they stop practicing, they start to lose a safety factor.
25 students are currently enrolled in the Firefighter 1 training class.
Rogers says a $400,000 federal grant allowed the Department to purchase all new emergency radios.
Lt. Nick Cabral says 30 years ago, turnout gear was just rubber boots, a long coat and orange rubber gloves that stuck to skin in a fire. It only let firefighters get a few feet in the door. Today’s gear covers the entire fighter from a hood and helmet to coat, pants and boots. Cabral says this allows them to push into a building, make more rescues and get more people out to safety. The gear is fire resistant and can withstand 2.5 seconds of direct flame contact. Today’s house fires burn at about 800 degrees.
The radios and turnout gear represent about $3,500 worth of equipment. Cabral says the gear they have now is innovative for its time because it’s considered “athletic”. It’s designed to fit the firefighter perfectly and not leave skin exposed if they reach up or down. The turnout gear is also lighter than it used to be. The helmet is about 6 pounds, 30 pounds for the breathing apparatus and 25 pounds in bunker gear.
In addition to classroom training, the firefighters can practice a number of practical skills. There are bailout trainings so that firefighters can safely evacuate from a building.
Besides the training classroom building and the burn tower, there are donated vehicles which firefighters can practice using the Jaws of Life tool. They now open battery-operated tools. There is a burnt out car on the property with a fire that can be controlled remotely. Firefighters can use that to train on what to look for when there is a vehicle fire.
A structure on the property can be used to train on how to fight fires in attics. There are built in rafters and a section of the roof that can be cut away for firefighters training to ventilate the roof of a home that’s on fire. The saw that the department uses is specially designed to be able to cut through nails and hardwood. Firefighters are also trained on how to “sound the roof”. They constantly test roof strength for collapse.
(Photo: City of Danbury)
Danbury has more than 2,000 fire hydrants, and yet that doesn’t cover the entire city. Firefighters are also trained on how to use the tanker trucks, which pump water into a pool that can be used to supply water to fire hoses.
Danbury’s HAZMAT truck is a regional asset paid for with state and federal funding. It can be called to 43 towns in Northwestern Connecticut. 30 HAZMAT technicians undergo annual training. They can respond to radiological, chemical and biological emergencies. A “rad seeker” allows this specially trained unit to identify a radiological source and determine whether it’s a weapon of mass destruction, or medical radiology. The state doesn’t have one of these tools, when the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection response to an emergency, they borrow Danbury’s tool. The HAZMAT Unit is like a rolling warehouse with enough protection suits for 20 members of the units can go out on call.
(Photo: City of Danbury)
A heavy rescue truck has tools for responses in confined spaces, trench rescues and ropes. The Danbury Fire Department responds to Tarrywile Park to rescue hikers on average once a week.