Tag Archives: Westport Fire Department

RTM Upgrades Radio System, Seawall; Appoints Transit Director

This is Peter Gold’s report on the December Representative Town Meeting. He is an RTM member writing for himself, not in an official capacity.

December’s RTM meeting featured several housekeeping items, and 3 appropriation requests.

Dan Woog’s invocation gave thanks for America’s democratic traditions. He thanked the RTM for all it does for Westport, describing the RTM as ”its own tradition. It is non-partisan. It represents every segment of town. It is unique. It is quirky. It is ours.”

Members then reelected Velma Heller as moderator and Jeff Wieser as deputy moderator for the 4th time, and thanked retiring Town Clerk Patty Strauss for her 23 years of service to the RTM and the town.

The RTM also thanked Marty Fox and Patsy Cimarosa, who resigned as directors of the Westport Transit District, for their nearly 5 years’ service as directors.

The most expensive appropriation was $4,635,408 for a new public safety radio system. The current system is 15 year old, and has parts that can no longer be repaired.

The new system will piggyback on the state’s existing system. making it significantly less expensive than buying a stand-alone setup. The new system enables the Police Department, Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services to communicate together for the first time, and expands the area covered by the system.

$230,000 was approved to repair the seawall along the river at Jesup Green. The project adds a railing atop the seawall to help minimize accidental falls into the river. While the RTM agreed safety should be a priority, hope was expressed that the railing will obstruct river views as little as possible.

Repairs will be made along the Saugatuck River seawall.

The RTM also approved $80,000 for the design and permitting stage of a project to repair the Old Mill walkway and tide gates.

The final agenda item was to appoint a new volunteer director for the Westport Transit District.

Peter Gold, former chair of the RTM Transit Committee (and the author of this article) was nominated, because of his familiarity with the Transit District’s operations. He would resign once the town came up with a plan for the future of the Transit District.

A motion was made to delay appointing a new transit director until February to give the town additional time to decide on a course of action.

Peter Gold

While some thought the absence of a director would prod the town to take action more quickly, others noted that a director must be in place now to deal with day-to day operations, including the new Wheels 2U Westport on-demand door-to train station commuter service, and to prepare the Transit District’s budget for the next fiscal year.

The appointment of a director would not prevent the town from formulating its own solution. Based on this, and Gold’s knowledge and experience with the Transit District, he was appointed as a director by a vote of 34 in favor, and 1 abstention.

 

 

Isaias: Lessons Learned

Next month (November 9, 6 p.m., online), the Westport Emergency Management Team will discuss its response to Tropical Isaias.

Meanwhile, a 15-page report on the storm and its aftermath has been posted on the town website.

It’s a fascinating document. From acknowledging the unique challenges of responding to a major weather event during a pandemic, to statistics on the thousands of phone calls and incident reports that poured in to first responders, and nuggets like the importance of hiring a retired Eversource engineer (and Westport resident) to lend expertise, the report is a blueprint for what went right during the August storm.

And what did not go so well.

Several days after Isaias, this was still the scene on Charcoal Hill Road. (Photo/Pat Blaufuss)

The document summarizes challenges, including staffing, technology, data and reporting, call dispatching, WiFi and charging stations.

It concludes with “Lessons Learned.” They include:

  • The importance of flexibility. For example, Westport planned for a flood event. Isaias’ damage came mainly from wind.
  • Anticipating that technology will fail. Downed wires and power outages rendered cell phones inoperable. Backup plans are always needed.
  • The importance of advertising Staples High School radio station WWPT (90.3 FM) as a resource, and reminding residents to have a radio at home — with batteries.
  • Aggressive tree pruning and removal “should be more seriously considered.”
  • Continued participation in regional emergency response drills. These simulate multiple simultaneous crises, and encourage creative solutions.
  • Nixle “is best used for short concise emergency notifications.”
  • The Police Department is acquiring more emergency signs.

Cones — not signs — confounded drivers on Post Road West. (Photo/Leah Nash)

Among the specific recommendations:

  • Developing a plan for technology failure — specifically, internet issues.
  • Improving senior-level communications and relationships with Eversource, cable and telephone utilities, and especially internet and wireless carriers.
  • Continuing to urge residents and businesses to sign up for town news, and follow the town on social media.
  • Establishing a town-wide mailing with emergency and preparedness information.
  • Establishing an annual plan for community preparedness educaiton.
  • Sending all department supervisors — not just Fire Department personnel — to national emergency training.
  • Developing a shared Excel file for tracking and coordinating road closures and downed wires, between departments.
  • Updating the Local Emergency Operation Plan, and dedicating time for all departments to train.
  • Investing in minor technical improvements to WWPT-FM.
  • Closing all Parks and Recreation facilities immediately upon advice of incoming storms, and reopening them only after each location has been deemed safe.

Click here for the full Emergency Management Team Isaias after-action report.

(The Emergency Management Team meeting on November 9 will be livestreamed on www.westportct.gov, and broadcast on Optimum channel 79 and Frontier channel 6020. Members of the public may submit questions and comments to webmaster@westportct.gov with the subject line “Storm Isaias After-Action Meeting” before November 9. Relevant uestions and comments received during the public comment portion of the meeting will be read aloud.)

It took a while for utility crews to arrive in Westport. The post-Isaias report recommends better communication with utilities and technology companies. (Photo/Peter Nussbaum)

Wildfires Consume West; Westporters Help

Westport Fire Chief Robert Yost is used to the hundreds of calls his department handles: house fires, accidents on I-95 and the Merritt, false alarms.

As the town’s director of emergency management, he plans for and coordinates responses to hurricanes, blizzards and, now, a virus pandemic.

But he’s a professional. And as millions of acres burn out west, he and Deputy Chief Michael Kronick answered the call.

Westport Fire Chief Robert Yost, as a medical assistant in Colorado.

The pair are members of the Connecticut Interstate Wildfire Crew. It’s our contribution to a national mutual aid pact. Members help states on an as-needed basis, with any kind of weather event.

(And yes, Yost says, Connecticut has wildfires. The most recent were around 1940.)

This summer, Connecticut sent firefighters to several western states. Yost — who was posted to Idaho and Wyoming in 2016, and Montana in 2018 — went this year to Colorado, as a medical assistant.

Assistant Chief Kronick also served before, in California and Colorado.

Deputy Fire Chief Michael Kronick in Colorado, 2 years ago.

Yost got the call this year at 11 p.m., on a Saturday. The next day, he was on a plane to Ft. Collins. The 100,oo0-plus acre Cameron Peak fire threatened homes, and the University of Colorado mountain campus. It is still only 4% contained.

Yost and his crew set up structure protection. They ran hoses and pumps, wrapped homes in preventive material, bulldozed lines and started back fires.

It’s nothing like fighting a Westport fire. “This is a long game, and a logistics war,”” Yost says. Feeding and supplying 1,000 firefighters takes as much coordination as the actual firefighting.

COVID complicated everything, of course. Rather than one central camp, firefighters were deployed to “spike” camps that reduced co-mingling.

For Yost, the opportunity to observe incident management was important too. He sat in on planning meetings, with the command staff. The insights he gained will serve him well in planning for, and reacting to, disasters here, he says.

Whatever they are.

No, those are not clouds. They’re part of Colorado’s Cameron Peak fire.

Roundup: Election Day Ballots, Pink Aid, More


It’s been a long 5 months since COVID-19 struck.

But Election Day will be here before we know it.

In Connecticut this year, an elector can vote either in person at the polls from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, or by mail (absentee ballot).

The Secretary of the State will send applications for absentee ballots to all registered voters the first 2 weeks in September. Completed applications should be delivered to the town clerk’s office as soon as possible, either by dropping off in the black drop box at the rear entrance of Town Hall, or by mailing to Westport Town Clerk, 110 Myrtle Ave, Westport, CT 06880.

Ballots will be issued by the town clerk’s office starting Monday, October 5 by mail or in person by appointment only. Beginning October 5, completed ballots may be dropped off in the drop box behind Town Hall, or by mailing to the address above.

Click here for more information about absentee voting, checking or making changes to voter registration, and registering to vote.

NOTE: If you have already submitted an application to receive a mail-in ballot for the November 3 election, disregard the additional application you will receive from the Secretary of the State next month.


Pink Aid turns 10 this year. For a decade, the organization has provided emergency financial funding to breast cancer patients in treatment.

Pink Aid began serving women in Connecticut and parts of New York. They’ve now expanded to meet the needs of patients and families throughout the US.

During the pandemic, needs have become even greater. To meet increased need, the group launched a Pink Aid Lipstick Challenge. Participants can “Pucker, Post & Pledge” — and get friends and family to do the same.

Click here to learn more. There are some great social media posts too — including a very sweet one from Courtney Prussin.

One post in particular is really sweet – Westport’s young breast cancer survivor Courtney Prussin and her daughter Camryn created an Instagram reel, which Staples cheerleaders will promote.

If you’re on Instagram, you can see the dance @cprussin31.


This week’s #FridayFlowers project graces Fire Department headquarters. Our firefighters are grateful to the Westport Garden Club.

And, as shown in the photo below, assistant fire chief Matt Cohen and deputy fire chief Mike Kronick  — with all their colleagues — will take excellent care of the arrangment.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


For years, visitors to Burying Hill — and boaters on the Sound — gazed at the sprawling compound just past the beach. It was owned by one of Westport’s most famous (and now Hollywood’s infamous) men: Harvey Weinstein.

You won’t be able to see it much longer. On Thursday, demolition began.

(Photo/Lisa Seidenberg)


And finally … happy 158th birthday to Claude Debussy!

 

Roundup: Fire Hero, Values, Flowers, Free Library, More


Nick Marsan is a dedicated member of the Westport Fire Department. The job he and his fellow firefighters do for us is phenomenal.

He’s a hero even off duty. At 6 p.m. Thursday, Nick and another off-duty firefighter — Jim Lyons from Norwalk — saw a 33-foot boat explode and catch fire in Norwalk Harbor, 100 yards off shore.

Nick and Jim swam out to assist the 6 boaters, who had jumped into the water. Nearby resident Tony Aitoro — of the appliance family — got in his boat and helped, with life rings and preservers.

I’m sure Nick was enjoying a day off, after many exhausting shifts during Tropical Storm Isaias. It was certainly not just “another day at the beach” — but heroically, Nick, Jim and Tony were there. (Hat tip: Sal Liccione)

Nick Marsan


Two different philosophies of life, spotted recently in Westport. This lawn sign:

(Photo/Bob Fox)

And this vehicle, parked near the Longshore tennis courts:

(Photo/Luke Garvey)


The Westport Garden Club missed last week’s #FridayFlowers project, thanks to Isaias.

They’re back this week though, with a gorgeous arrangement at the plaza between Saugatuck Sweets and The Whelk. Enjoy!

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


“06880” is a big fan of the Westport Library.

But we also love the tiny “free libraries” that pop up on front lawns here and there. The latest is at 105 Hillandale Road, near Morningside Drive South.

It’s simple: Take a book. Or leave a book.

That’s it. No library cards. No late fees. And they’re open 24/7. Read!

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)


Ellis Laifer and Eli Koskoff were musicians, friends, and fellow Class of 2015 Staples High School graduates.

At Bowdoin College Ellis met a singer from Brooklyn, Tobi Omola. They performed, collaborated, and did a themed thesis together. For their final event, Eli flew from the University of Southern California to Maine for a live concert with them.

The trio clicked. They released songs on Spotify. Now — playing a mixture of folk R&B, hip hop and indie music, and calling themselves Fortuno — they’re a streaming sensation.

Their recent single “Wait” is getting plenty of attention. Click here to listen; follow “FortunoMusic” on Instagram and Facebook.

Fortuno (from left): Ellis Laifer, Tobi Omola, Eli Koskoff.

And finally … let’s remember Helen Jones Woods. She played trombone with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, an all-female, multiracial ensemble in the 1930’s and ’40s. She died last month from COVID-19 complications. She was 96 years old.

 

Isiais: By The Numbers

Ten days after Tropical Storm Isaias ravaged our town, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, the Department of Public Works and Westport Emergency Response Team report:

The Westport Fire Department responded to 581 incidents, almost 500% of their normal call volume. WFD also responded to at least 30 carbon monoxide incidents, the first time the department received so many calls of this type. In response, the WFD and the Fire Marshal have been increasing their education and outreach regarding the proper usage of generators.

From 1 p.m. Tuesday, August 4 through 1 a.m. Wednesday, the Westport Police Department logged 230 calls for service. 155 of them came at the height of the storm, 2 p.m.. Over the following 24 hours, the WPD answered 779 phone calls, 284 of them on the 911 line. The department also deployed temporary traffic control signage at around 15 major intersections throughout the course of the storm.

The Department of Public Works cleared 304 tree issues. They continue their cleaning debris from 125 miles of town-owned roadways, in addition to all town-owned Parks and Recreation facilities. The DPW expects to spend 2 weeks cleaning up town property, most of which could not commence until Eversource cleared and de-energized their wires.

DPW’s role is to remove trees and debris from the town’s right of way. DPW is not doing curbside pick-up of yard waste. Residents should not put personal yard waste and debris curbside. The town’s Yard Waste Site at 180 Bayberry Lane is open for personal yard debris. Normal hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon. Tomorrow (August 15), the yard waste site stays open until 3 p.m.

The Department of Human Services worked around the clock, in collaboration with emergency personnel, to address storm-related concerns from upwards of 400 households. DHS received over 150 calls and emails, and made over 40 home visits for welfare checks and/or provide food service.

Westport’s Department of Human Services brought food, water (and toilet paper) to elderly residents trapped behind this tree on Rocky Ridge Road.

If you have a vulnerable resident in the home, or know seniors who live alone or whose main caregiver is also elderly, register that individual with the DHS. Call 203-341-1073, so the department can proactively follow up with him or her during future emergencies.

The number of town-wide emails and phone calls received is over triple the normal volume. Town personnel collaborated and triaged those responses as quickly as possible. In addition, emergency and general information was dispersed via Nixle alerts, daily press releases, social media posts and through the town radio station, WWPT 90.3FM.

Residents can stay connected with the town by signing up for emergency alerts and press notifications, and following the town on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Residents are urged to preset their radio to 90.3 FM in case of emergency.

As part of emergency incident standard procedures, the Town Emergency Operations Command Team will debrief and discuss the process, protocols and communications that occurred during Isaias. Each member will make recommendations for improved procedures during future emergency incidents.

Marpe adds: “There were many examples of neighbors helping neighbors and people stepping up to help in the midst of the emergency. Most Westporters came together and demonstrated resilience and an inherent capacity to help those around them. I want to express my deepest gratitude to those residents and town employees who exhibited patience, cooperation and understanding under very trying circumstances.”

The night after 98% of Westport lost power, an impromptu concert popped up on Jesup Green. (Photos/Miggs Burroughs)

Unsung Heroes #154

A recent blaze in a Roosevelt Road home, and an earlier one on Saugatuck Shores, reinforces just how fantastic our Fire Department is.

Last week’s Compo Beach blaze. (Photo/Larry Hoy)

They are quick. They are professional. They have so much territory to cover — not only thousands of homes and businesses all around town, but anything that happens on I-95 and the Merritt Parkway (plus the railroads and even, sometimes, on the water).

It’s easy to forget all that they do, and how well they do it.

But “06880” reader Deb Green reminds us:

The other day, our 300-gallon oil tank was filled. It began to leak around 6:30 in the morning.

The Saugatuck firefighters were on the scene in a matter of minutes. They stopped the leak, and remained on the scene until the tank removal company arrived.

They spoke directly to the tank remediation company, explaining exactly what the situation was. They also spoke with the EPA to report the spill.

It’s hard to imagine the damage 300 gallons of oil could have done inside our house!

Those actions may or may not be in their precise job description. But whatever it says, the Westport Fire Department — paid firefighters and volunteers, front line personnel and support staff — goes well above, and far beyond, every time they get the call.

We don’t thank them enough.

In fact, we can’t thank them enough.

But they are our Unsung Heroes of the Week.

 

Beach Home Gutted By Fire

Firefighters contained a potentially dangerous blaze in the pre-dawn hours this morning, near Compo Beach.

An unoccupied Roosevelt Avenue home — currently under renovation — caught fire.

(Photo/Jimmy Izzo)

Quentin Road resident Larry Hoy reports, “Westport’s finest and bravest were there at 5 a.m., and totally controlled and contained the fire.

“It was quite impressive to see these guys in action. The neighboring homes are very close, but the WFD made sure they were unscathed.”

The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined.

(Photo/Larry Hoy)

 

Marpe Creates Civilian Review Panel For Police, Fire, EMS

Westport’s police force, fire department and EMTs provide high service with “utmost professionalism, transparency and accountability,” town officials say.

However, today’s climate “demands a reassessment of goals, an even higher degree of commitment, and a clear way to incorporate and engage” the public.

So today, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe announced a new Civilian Review Panel. Members will work closely with the Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services Departments to “assist in the hiring process of new employees, and review and provide feedback in the civilian complaint process.”

Marpe appointed Selectwomen Jennifer Tooker and Melissa Kane, along with TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, to the CRP.

Though the departments heads retain responsibility for hiring and disciplinary measures, the CRP will work collaboratively and offer feedback.

Foti Koskinas says that when he became Police Chief, his goal was

to continue to build on the foundation of public trust carefully fostered between this department and our residents. Now, at a time when police departments across the country are looking introspectively at ways to better serve our communities, I believe that this is an important step in continuing to maintain complete transparency, in preserving public trust and in reassuring our residents that effective policing is truly a collaborative effort.

Fire Chief Rob Yost adds:

The Westport Fire Department continues to strive to diversify in its hiring of recruit firefighters and, to that end, welcomes the assistance from the CRP. I would also welcome their assistance with any questions of conduct or complaints of fire personnel to insure the continued high level of public trust and support of the Fire Department

Roundup: Beach, Pool, Golf And Tennis News; #ILoveWestport; Lucky Grad; Fireworks; More


Here’s the latest update from Westport Parks & Rec:

Starting Wednesday, July 1, lifeguards will staff Compo and Burying Hill beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. All regular beach rules will be enforced, in addition to all COVID-19 rules. Boogie boards and skim boards are permitted.

The Longshore pools will remain closed, due to state restrictions and limited staffing resources.

Parks and Rec director Jennifer Fava says her department “will continue to monitor the guidance from the state, Should restrictions ease, and we can staff appropriately, we will reevaluate the possibility of opening the pool complex.”

Starting tomorrow (Saturday, June 27), 2 players may share a golf cart. Both must wear face coverings in the cart, and the same person must drive the cart the entire time. Exception: members of the same household are not required to wear face covering in a cart, and valid drivers may alternate.

Also starting tomorrow, all tennis courts at Longshore, Staples High School, Town Farm and Doubleday (behind Saugatuck School) are open for both singles and doubles play. All platform tennis and pickleball courts are open for singles and doubles too.


During the lockdown, town officials emphasized: “We’re all in this together.”

That’s the message during reopening too. To drive it home, they asked a variety of people to make personal promises for keeping everyone healthy.

Anthony John Rinaldi taped those promises. He’s making them into a series of videos, all tagged #ILoveWestport.

In the first one, restaurant owner Bill Taibe promises to keep cooking. Farmers’ Market director Lori McDougall promises to support local vendors. Police Chief Foti Koskinas promises to keep Westporters safe.

There are more too, in this quick video — including a special “06880” appearance. Click below to see.


Like many Westporters, Serkan Elden kept his “Proud Family of 2020 Staples High School Graduate” sign up, even after the ceremony 2 weeks ago. He is justifiably proud of his daughter Deniz, a great member of the senior class that went through so much this year.

Someone else is proud too.

The other day Deniz found an envelope in the Eldens’ mailbox. It was addressed simply: “The Graduate.”

Inside she found a note: “Congratulations 2020! Hope this is a Winner! Good Luck. From, Anonymous Lyons Plain Rd. Neighbor.”

Attached was a Double Match lottery scratch card.

She did not win. 🙁 But odds are good that this is a gift Deniz will remember long after the coronavirus is history.


If you missed last weekend’s “Stand Up (At Home) for Homes with Hope” comedy show — no problem.

An encore presentation is set for Wednesday (July 1, 8 p.m.). Four very funny comedians joined Staples grad/noted songwriter Justin Paul for a wonderful hour of entertainment.

Click here to register. And if you saw the show the first time around, you’ll receive an automatic link to watch again.


 

There are no 4th of July fireworks at Compo Beach this year.

And, the Westport Fire Department warns, there should be none anywhere in town.

The note that all fireworks are illegal in Connecticut, expect sparklers and fountains.

Also illegal: items like party poppers, snakes, smoke devices, sky lanterns and anything that emits a flame. Possessing or exploding illegal devices could result in a fine or jail.

Note too: Extremely dry conditions make it easy for fireworks, sparklers and fountains to cause brush fires.


And finally … as other states find themselves in the same situation Connecticut was in 2 months ago, we here are thinking of our friends around the nation.