Thankfully, fires are few and far between in Westport.
But that does not mean our firefighters sit leisurely in their stations, cooking chili and playing cards while waiting for the rare alarm to ring.
The department responds to medical emergencies and accidents, including on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway. They provide coverage for other towns.
And they conduct inspections.
In fact, that’s a large part of the Westport Fire Department’s work.
The fire marshal’s office looks at plans for new construction and planned renovations of commercial properties. They conduct regular inspection of existing buildings, with eyes toward things like exists, sprinklers and electrical panels.
Less known is the Fire Department’s role in home inspections.
More informal than with buildings — offered on request, as a courtesy, and not as an “enforcement” mechanism — inspectors offer professional expertise to keep owners and their families safe.
Requests come from older residents, and newcomers. The pandemic has brought many first-time homeowners to Westport; thee come from apartments with supers, to large homes with fireplaces and circuit breakers, and they’ve got questions.
Inspector Jon Piper is a veteran of home inspections. He offers these tips to Westporters:
There should be 1 smoke alarm in each bedroom, and 1 more on each floor. Change batteries when you change your clocks to and from Daylight Savings Time — and change the smoke alarms themselves every 10 years. Mark the date the detector goes into service, so it is easily visible.
CO detectors should be installed in any home with an attached garage or fuel-burning appliance. There should be more than one in a large or complex home. The Fire Department will help with optimal placement of CO detectors.
Have your fireplace flue cleaned regularly by a licensed professional. Burn only logs — not other material. Of course, dispose of all ashes safely.
Do not store hazardous materials (like propane tanks and gasoline) in your home.
Fire extinguishers can put out small fires. If you have an extinguisher, know how to use it. There are normally simple instructions on the outside. Do not delay calling 911 while using a fire extinguisher, and exit the building immediately if a fire is beyond the capacity of the extinguisher or the person using it.
There are safety limits to extension cords. Grounded plugs require an extension cord with a ground. A single high-demand electrical appliance like a space heater should be used with a heavy extension cord. Be careful not to overload cords; just because it has another outlet doesn’t mean it can take more load. Do not place cords under rugs, and don’t connect multiple cords together. A licensed electrician can install an additional plug if needed.
Discuss emergency plans with all family members. Establish a meeting place — for example, at the mailbox. Consider having regular fire drills in your home.
Make sure your house number is visible, approaching from either direction of the street. Homes with mailboxes across the street, or group mailboxes, should have markings on the house itself.
“We’re a public safety institution,” Piper says. “Anything that helps the public, we’re for it.”
(Interested in a home fire safety inspection? Call the Westport Fire Department’s non-emergency number: 203-341-5000.)