Tag Archives: Fire Department

Roundup: Zadie Smith, Jim Naughton, Andrew Maskoff …

The Westport Library has a new award: the Westport Prize for Literature.

The first honoree — author Zadie Smith — will be feted in person November 12.

The new annual prize is for an original work of fiction that explores issues in contemporary society. Smith was recognized this year for “The Fraud.” It’s “a kaleidoscopic work of historical fiction set against the legal trial that divided Victorian England, about who gets to tell their story — and who gets to be believed.”

The prize will be administered by a committee of Westport resident volunteers. An independent jury will choose the winner.

Steering committee chair Candice Savin calls Smith “an icon in letters, and an inspiration to writers — and a delight for readers — everywhere.”

She wrote the novels “White Teeth,” “The Autograph Man,” “On Beauty,” “NW” and “Swing Time,” and the novella “The Embassy of Cambodia.” She is a 3-time nominee for the Booker Prize, and last year was honored with the PEN America Literary Service Award.

Zadie Smith


This is the last week for the nearly month-long run of “On Golden Pond,” at the Ivorytown Playhouse in Essex.

Which means the end of the daily commute for 3 local residents. Two-time Tony Award winner James Naughton, and Fairfield’s Mia Dillon, co-star in the show about an older couple, and others, at a lakeside cottage.

Westporter Stacie Lewis plays Naughton and Dillon’s daughter.

James Naughton, with Mia Dillon and Stacie Lewis, at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

Audiences have loved the production. Click here for more information.


Speaking of entertainment:

Staples High School sophomore Andrew Maskoff recently reached the National Association of Teachers of Singing semifinals.

Andrew is a familiar face. He assistant music directed Staples Players’ “Twelfth Night,” and played in the pit for many shows. He sings with Orphenians, and studies privately with Wendy Morgan-Hunter.

Besides singing, Andrew is a superb pianist. He studies with Tatiana Pikayzen, and won won the Schubert Club Award for Romantic and Modern Composers.  He also plays multiple instruments, is in Staples’ Jazz Workshop, and also composes music.

He reached the semifinals after state competition, and the national quarterfinals, with hundreds of other singers. Click below for one of the tracks he submitted.

Congratulations, Andrew!


What’s next in Weston?

Gun legislation.

Well, it’s actually statewide. But in this week’s “What’s Next in Weston” podcast, State Senator Ceci Maher discusses important new — and strengthened — gun control legislation with 1st Selectwoman Sam Nestor.

This legislation was passed at 4 a.m. Saturday morning. Dick Kalt spoke with Senator Maher 9 hours later, for the Y’s Men of Westport and Weston episode.

Click below to listen:


Speaking of important issues:

Last week at the Westport Library, Roosevelt Institute director of climate policy Rhiana Gunn-Wright explored the interconnections between environmental and racial justice. She also spoke about how to cultivate regional responses to the climate crisis, noting that environmental impacts cross town lines.

Click below to see:


A few real estate facts from May:

26 units were sold. That’s down 40% from May of 2022.

The median sales price of $2.6 million was up 27% from last year. The median sales price per square foot of $568 was also up, by 15%. (Hat tip: Meredith Cohen of William Raveis) 

This 8-bedroom, 12-bathroom, 13,128-square foot home on 7.27 acres on Hedley Farms Road in Greens Farms is on the market for $11,995,000. 


An early morning fire drew a quick response, on Old Hill Road.

Three occupants of a barn, including an apartment, were alert to the blaze by the property owner, and evacuated.

Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to other sections of the U-shaped structure.

Mutual aid from Fairfield and Norwalk fire departments were on the scene and at Westport fire headquarters. Westport Police and Westport also
provided assistance.

The 3 displaced occupants received help from Westport Human Services and the American Red Cross.

Three firefighters received minor injuries.

Quick work prevented the blaze from spreading to other parts of the barn. (Photo courtesy of Westport Fire Department)


Guitarists Kenny Wessel and Rale Micic headline this Thursday’s Jazz at the Post.

Wessel — known for his “adventurous voice, unrelenting swing and sensitive accompaniment skills,” is a Westport favorite. He and Greg “The Jazz Rabbi” Wall — who will join in on sax — have played together for 30 years.

Serbian guitarist and composer Micic “skillfully fuses culture with timeless jazz.”

Joining those 3 are bassist Steve LaSpina and drummer Eric Halvorson.

Shows are 7:30 and 8:45 p.m. at VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399, on June 8. Dinner service starts at 7 p.m. There is a $15 cover. Reservations are strongly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.

Kenny Wessel and Rale Micic.


We’re always looking for new creatures to feature on “Westport … Naturally.”

We’ve got one today. Longtime Westporter — and ophthalmologist — Mark Steckel zeroed in on his specialty. He writes:

“This snake was hiding in the vinca that surrounds my pinky-winky hydrangea, though I never saw him wink. But of course, he can’t: Snakes have no eyelids.”

(Photo/Mark Steckel)


And finally … in honor of Mark Steckel’s image (above):

(Don’t be a snake! Please contribute to your hyper-local blog! Just click here — and thank you!)

Question Box: Answers #1

Last week, I introduced the “06880” Question Box.

It’s a chance to ask anything you’ve wondered about (with a Westport angle, of course). Questions can be current or historical, concrete or abstract, deep or shallow.

I’ll attempt to answer them. If I don’t have the answer, I’m sure other “06880” readers will.

You responded quickly. Here’s the first set of questions. And — where appropriate — the answers.


Who is Grace Salmon, and why is there a park named for her? (Arlene Yolles)

According to Woody Klein’s history of Westport, Grace King Salmon was a founding member of the Westport Woman’s Club.

The wife of Frederick Salmon — Connecticut state comptroller, and president of Westport Bank & Trust — she died in 1939. She left a trust in her own name to benefit the town.

Virginia Sherwood, Westport Garden Club chairman, applied for grants from the trust and other agenciees to design a park on 3 acres of Saugatuck River landfill across the river from where the Salmons lived (now the Assumption Church rectory).

It took several years to solve the site’s environmental problems. But the Garden Club developed Connecticut’s first park built on a former landfill, and won an award for its efforts.

Today, Grace K. Salmon Park is one of Westport’s hidden-in-plain-site treasures. It’s on Imperial Avenue near Baker Avenue — a few yards from the Westport Woman’s Club, which its namesake helped found.

The scene from Grace Salmon Park across the Saugatuck River, near where the Salmon family once lived. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)


When did the junior high system start in Westport? (Joyce Barnhart)

From its opening in 1884, and for the next 42 years, Staples High School included 7th through 9th graders.

In 1926, construction of a new “Bedford Junior High School” — aided, in large part, by a $145,000 gift from E.T. Bedford — was nearly complete. Situated across a field from the original Staples High School on Riverside (where the auditorium of what is now Saugatuck Elementary School now sits), the building (now Kings Highway Elementary) included an “unusually good” gymnasium, auditorium and stage — all of which would be shared by the high school.

The 18-acre plot between the schools was planned as a well-equipped “playground” (athletic fields) for students and adults.

So 1926 was when the first junior high — for 7th, 8th and 9th graders — opened in Westport. Long Lots followed in the early 1950s, Coleytown in 1965.

Kings HIghway Elementary School was originally Bedford Junior High. Fields separated it from the first Staples High. Look closely, and you can still see “Bedford” above the front door.


Who is “Bob”? This sign (below) has hung for years on the south side of New Creek Road, opposite Maple Lane, near the Greens Farms train station. (Bill Ryan)

(Photo/Bill Ryan)

Damned if I know. This question has been posed at least once on “06880,” to no avail. If any readers know who “Bob” is — and/or who put his sign high in that tree — click “Comments” below.


What’s the story with the Mercedes station wagon that’s been parked in the same spot for months on Myrtle Avenue, in front of Town Hall? (See photo below.)

The tracks around it from the street sweeper are clear evidence it has not moved. It’s covered in dust, still containing someone’s belongings. No tickets on the windshield, or other signs of official notice, just yards from Town Hall. (Michael Moore)

(Photo/Michael Moore)

Believe it or not, I’ve never noticed it — and I drive past Town Hall every day.

But hey, “06880” readers: If you’ve lost your Mercedes-Benz, we know where it is.


If Westport is located on the eastern side of Long Island Sound, why is it not named Eastport? (Ray Broady)

Well, first of all, Westport is north, south, east and west of a lot of things.

How we got our name in 1835 — when our town was officially incorporated, carved out of the towns of Norwalk, Wilton, Weston and Fairfield — has been a matter of dispute for nearly 200 years.

One theory is that it is a port west of Fairfield (our original European settlers came to what is now Greens Farms, from Fairfield).

Another theory is that because the new town was not named Saugatuck — a state representative claimed it sounded too much like “succotash” — the name “Westport” paid homage to that neighborhood, which was a port on the west side of the Saugatuck River.

Robert Lambdin’s Saugatuck mural. The “port” was on the West bank of the Saugatuck River.


Why are Westport sidewalks not maintained, not ADA compliant, and not cleared of snow on a timely basis? Why are there no continuous sidewalks on Post Road? Why can’t I walk from Sylvan to Whole Foods? (Monica Buesser)

I asked Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich. He says:

“ADA-compliant sidewalk ramps with detectable warning pads are only required at roadways, not at driveways. The reason you see some sidewalks without ADA ramps at roadways, or with ramps that appear to be non-compliant with the current ADA regs, is that they may have not been replaced recently, and may have been constructed incorrectly, constructed to an earlier ADA standard, or constructed before the ADA regulations were made stricter. As we reconstruct sidewalks around town, we are correcting that situation by installing appropriate ramps where the ADA regs dictate.

“Currently residential properties are cleared of ice and snow by the town. There is no requirement for residential zoned properties to clear their sidewalks.  Commercial use properties are required to clear ice and snow from the front of their establishments within 24 hours.

“Having said that, with approximately 23 miles of residential sidewalks, it often takes us multiple days to clear all the sidewalks after a big storm, and if we have back to back storms we prioritize the roads first, then the parking lots, then the sidewalks. We appreciate residents helping us out any way they can during the winter, by clearing the walk in front of their property.”

A new sidewalk was on North Avenue last year. It’s now ADA-compliant. (Photo/Michael Fleming)


When will the 1-lane bridge on Bayberry Lane/White Birch Road go back to 2 lanes?

Another one for Public Works director Ratkiewich. He says:

“The Bayberry Lane bridge over the Aspetuck River is tied up in federal permitting right now with the Army Corps of Engineers. We hoped to go to construction this year, but due to the Army Corps’ backlog it appears we will bid this winter. and start construction in the spring of 2022.”


When did the Westport Fire Department move its headquarters from Church Lane, next to the old YMCA (now Bedford Square) to the current Post Road site? (Dorrie Thomas)

1982, says Chief Robert Yost.

I did not ask — but probably should have — if that was the same time they discontinued their Saturday noontime horn test. It could be heard all over town. Nor do I know when the Department stopped alerting volunteer firefighters to the location of a blaze by horns. The short/long codes could be found on the inside of telephone directories. Remember them?

Former Fire Department headquarters, on Church Lane. The YMCA is on the left.


Is water safe to drink from the tap? (Michelle Harmon)

I guess so. If it isn’t, I’m sure we would have heard about it by now.


The “Question Box” is open for more questions. Just email dwoog@optonline.net!

Winning Move: RTM Names Football Field For Paul Lane

The Representative Town Meeting dealt with 2 non-controversial items last night. Both passed unanimously.

One — naming the Staples High School football field in honor of Paul Lane — is sure to bring a smile to the faces of countless Westporters, present and past.

Here is Peter Gold’s report on the July RTM meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, and not in an official capacity.

Paul Lane,

“Coach Paul Lane Field” is a posthumous honor. Paul Lane died last month, at 93. But he knew that town bodies were considering the action. A petition favoring the name was signed by over 1,000 Westporters.

Lane spent nearly 30 years as a Staples coach and physical education instructor. Though best known for his football teams — including a powerhouse 1967 FCIAC champion squad, and 1975 state champs — he was also a noted track coach.

In fact, he coached a young Laddie Lawrence. The dedication of the Laddie Lawrence Track last month spurred a drive to name Staples’ football stadium for Paul Lane. Lawrence spoke in favor of the move at last night’s RTM meeting.

Paul Lane Field is the 3rd at Staples honoring a beloved coach. The others are  named for Albie Loeffler (soccer) and Virginia Parker (field hockey). All 3 taught physical education together at Staples, from the 1950s through the ’70s.

The fieldhouse is named for Lou Nistico, former owner of the Arrow restaurant, and an avid Staples athletics supporter.

Paul Lane Football Field

Earlier in the evening, the RTM approved $232,000 to replace 3 of the 12 non-fire truck vehicles used by the Fire Department.

Two of the vehicles are used by command staff and the fire marshal. The third is a dive rescue unit used by the Police and Fire Departments. It was purchased in 1996. The other 2 vehicles were purchased in  2007 and 2009. All 3 are beyond their useful life, no longer cost effective to maintain and operate.

Approximately $90,000 of the cost is for fitting the vehicles up for use by the Fire Department, including installing warning lights, radios, cabinetry for necessary storage, and tool racks.  The existing vehicles will be sold, but will likely have little salvage value.

Due to the current shortage of semiconductor chips, the vehicles must be ordered by October, in order to be received by June 2022.

The Fire Department expects to replace 2 or 3 non-fire truck vehicles every year, to help keep operating and fuel costs down. Fire trucks are not expected to be replaced until the 2022-23 fiscal year, starting with 2 engine trucks and the ladder truck replacement in 2024-25.

Shovel Those Hydrants!

Our firefighters have plenty of things to do. Shoveling hydrants is not one of them.

If there’s one near you, do it yourself.

The home you save may be your own!

Fire hydrant


And While You’re At It, Shovel Those Hydrants!

Alert “06880” reader Pippa  Bell Ader says:

Fire hydrant shoveled outI shoveled out my fire hydrant.

I called the Fire Department. They appreciate any help in clearing hydrants of snow, or even just making a path to the hydrants. They don’t have the manpower to get to all of them.

But don’t throw the snow back onto the street!

Now is a perfect time to do this, with no cars on the road.

One Firefighters’ Story — Among Many

Westport’s emergency personnel — firefighters, police, EMTs, road crews and many others — earned their keep today.

Despite damage to her own home —

— “06880” reader Elaine Clayton sent this along:

Maybe 4 minutes after a tree broke through a front window of my house, Westport firefighters came to help.

They really do risk their lives.  As they were managing power lines and the enormous branch, another huge branch fell so close to one of the firefighters, it knocked his helmet off.

I feel very grateful to the firefighters, and proud of them.  They were kind, and even helped me tape the window.

As I’m posting this, it’s not yet 8 p.m.  Code Red says this storm will continue for a few hours.

Our emergency crews are still earning their keep.  Remember their service the next time someone squawks about what they’re earning in terms of dollars, too.

Westport firefighters check out Elaine Clayton's home.