Tag Archives: Westport Fire Department

Roundup: Super Bowl Sounds, PAL, Minute Man, More

===================================================

I’m not a fan of the fake crowd noise that’s pumped into sports broadcasts, ever since the pandemic slashed — or eliminated — crowds.

But I’ve always wondered how they did it.

Yesterday, on his regular “CBS Sunday Morning” gig, David Pogue explained.

He took a trip from his Westport home — where some of the segment was filmed — and headed to Met Life Stadium for a chat with (among others) Harry Carson. I guess the actual Giants team was unavailable, although there is some doubt as to whether they have an actual team.

At any rate, it’s an intriguing piece. Click below to watch:

=======================================================

Westport PAL president Ned Batlin is stepping down.

The Westport police officer — a former 3-sport athlete at Staples High School (football, wrestling, lacrosse) — has led the organization for 5 years. PAL serves thousands of youngsters through football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, rugby, track and cheerleading programs.

PAL also runs a robust scholarship program — and Westport’s annual Independence Day fireworks.

Batlin — who will remain on the Westport Police Department force — will be succeeded by PAL vice president and veteran police officer Craig Bergamo.

Officer Ned Batlin, at Westport PAL’s 2015 July 4th celebration.

======================================================

Love is in the air. And the Westport Downtown Merchants Association want you to feel it, by using an eGift Card.

Or giving a gift card, as a gift.

The card can be used at many locations downtown, including retailers, restaurants and service providers. Click here to purchase. Click here for a list of participating businesses.

======================================================

They’re not called Friends of Sherwood Island for nothing.

On Friday, the group’s garden team kept Connecticut’s first state park looking good — and healthy. They pruned suckers from the base of several 200-year-old trees on the west beach. Many are from Westport.

It’s all part of their year-round effort to maintain and enhance wildlife habitat.

From left: From left to right: Barrie Holmes, Michele Sorensen, Chris Swan, Jackson and Johannes Cregan, Lavinia Larsson and Pamela Nobomuto.

======================================================

A certain segment of Westporters loves decorating our Minute Man. They decorate him with Santa Claus hats, Easter bunny ears, and (last spring) a COVID mask. It’s all part of humanizing our town’s most recognizable symbol.

Another segment thinks that’s disrespectful. He’s a patriot, they say; don’t make light of what he symbolizes.

Whichever side of the memorial’s wrought-iron gate you’re on, you must agree: Yesterday’s decoration was certainly different.

(Photo/Pam Kesselman)

======================================================

The Fire Department responded to a potentially dangerous blaze yesterday, on Bayberry Lane.

First arriving units found a 2-story, 2-family home with fire on both floors, and the attic.

Second floor residents were alerted to the fire by a carbon monoxide detector. They notified residents of the first floor to evacuate. There were no injuries, but 3 residents were displaced by the fire.

Wilton and Fairfield Fire Departments assisted on scene, and with station coverage during the fire.

The Westport Fire Department reminds residents to have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of their homes.

Aftermath of the Bayberry Lane fire. (Photo courtesy of Westport Fire Department)

======================================================

Anne Lowrie’s snowman looks suspiciously like her father, Tom — right down to the Sunrise Rotary cap.

(Photo/Anne Lowrie)

=======================================================

And finally … James Dean was born on this day, in 1931. He died in a car crash in 1955, age 24. Had he lived, the star of “Rebel Without a Cause” would be celebrating his 90th birthday.

 

Remembering Herbie Carusone

Westport native and longtime Westport firefighter Joseph Herbert Carusone died last week in his Walpole, Maine  home. He was 88.

Herbie’s father owned the Mayfair Market grocery store, on the corner of Post Road West and Wilton Avenue. He worked there, and enjoyed fishing and crabbing in the nearby Saugatuck River.

Carusone graduated from Staples High School in 1951, though he missed the ceremony because he had already joined the Navy. His 4 years of service included deployment to the Mediterranean Sea on the USS Tidewater.

He sent some of his pay back home to help his parents, but kept enough money to buy US Savings Bonds.

Joseph Herbert “Herbie” Carusone

After returning to Westport, Carusone joined his dad in the grocery store. He worked alongside his younger sister Pat, and his best friend Ray Bowne.

In 1964 he joined the Westport Fire Department. His grandfather had been a volunteer there too.

In his free time Carusone went fishing, clamming and lobstering in Long Island Sound. He also painted houses.

Carusone used his construction skills to build a house in Weston, acting as general contractor.

After retiring from the Westport Fire Department as a lieutenant in 1986, with 22 years of service, he sailed up the New England coast. Moving to Wiscasset, Maine, he became known by his first name, Joe.

In Maine he met Janis Breen Warsky. They were married in 1991.

Carusone frequented auctions to find diamonds in the rough, to refinish and sell in his shop, Wiscasset Cottage Antiques. Customers loved his workmanship, and he enjoyed sharing his treasures with them. He was in his shop through this past summer.

When he wasn’t there, Carusone caught stripers in the Sheepscot River, was an avid collector of antique household items, and renovated several houses.

Carusone particularly loved being with family and friends, having large family dinners, and chatting with his kids and grandkids. Recently he found joy in sitting on the patio with Jan, watching waves crash onto the rocks at Pemaquid Point.

Carusone was preceded in death by his sisters Naime Wakeman and Nona Aznar. He is survived by his wife, Janis Warsky-Carusone; his daughter Pamela and husband Garvin Gardner; sons Joseph (Maria) and Jeffrey; step-daughters Stephanie Smith (Nathan) and Kristen Warsky (partner Joshua); step-son Jordan Warsky (Kelly); sister Pat Stannard (Elmer); 9 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

His family thanks the many doctors and nurses who provided Carusone with exceptional care and love.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in his name to MaineHealth Care at Home,15 Industrial Park Road, c/o Roy Garland, Saco, Maine 04072.

There will be a special days of remembrance in Connecticut and Maine this summer.

Friday Flashback #223

This month, Anthropologie is decorated for the holidays. Even — especially? — in these COVID times, the old Tudor building looks inviting and warm.

But for most of its life, the handsome structure at Westport’s major downtown intersection was the YMCA.

Built by E.T. Bedford in 1923 to replace the Westport Hotel, the new Y featured reading and writing rooms, pool tables and bowling alleys.

A year later — during what seems to be late fall or early spring — this is what the YMCA looked like.

(Photo courtesy of Seth Schachter)

There was plenty of parking. A small sign at the top of the photo warned trolley conductors to go slowly.

The Y did not occupy the entire building. The far eastern portion — the section closest to Church Lane — housed Westport’s downtown fire department. If you click on or hover over the image to enlarge it, you can see the bay doors.

Judging by this photo, fire trucks had no problem roaring through downtown traffic en route to calls.

New Civilian Panel Reviews Police

Soon after the 2013 election, new First Selectman Jim Marpe met with Police Chief Dale Call and Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas.

“I’d never been a police officer,” Marpe — a former management consultant — says. “I needed their best input.”

Today, he notes, “I’m a lot smarter about their activity — and the Fire Department, and EMS.” Though the leaders of those department report to him, Marpe describes their relationship as “more collaborative than command-and-control.”

Nearly 5 years ago, Marpe appointed Koskinas as chief of police. He continued what Call had begun: a review of policies and procedures to reflect new national policing standards.

Westport’s manual dated back to 1972. It was one year younger than Koskinas.

The department enjoys an excellent reputation. In 7 years, Marpe says, “I don’t need 2 hands to count the number of genuine, legitimate complaints we’ve gotten — and that includes the Fire Department too.”

Nationally of course, police departments face intense scrutiny.

So — in addition to weekly meetings, and many more frequent phone conversations — Marpe has created a Citizen Review Panel. To “foster and maintain the public’s trust” in its public safety departments, the panel will:

  • Participate in the interview process of new hires and lateral transfer applicants of the Police, Fire and EMS Departments
  • Review and provide feedback on complaints
  • Advise the departments on policies and procedures that improve transparency and accountability.

CRP members will be trained to understand policies, internal affairs and legal issues. They’ll hold regular public meetings.

The CRP will include the 2nd and 3rd selectmen (currently Jen Tooker and Melissa Kane); one member of TEAM Westport, and 2 members of the Westport electorate. Marpe has appointed TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey to the panel, and will name the 2 other members soon.

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

Koskinas says that the police union is on board with the CRP. “They want accountability and transparency too,” he says.

Westport’s police already meet or exceed the state’s Police Office Standards and Training (POST) guidelines in areas like body cameras, chokehold procedures and more. Minority recruitment — including the most recent hire — is “the most diverse ever,” says Koskinas.

“But we want an outside party to see the complaints that come in. We want to highlight how well we handle our internal policing.” Sometimes, he says, an investigation turns up an issue that the initial complaint did not even include.

In 2016 there were 6 civilian complaints against the Police Department. The next year there were 5, then 6 and 8. In 2020, there have been a total of 3. Complaints against the Fire Department and EMS are even lower.

Most police complaints, Koskinas says, involve citizens dissatisfied with an interaction with an officer.

“It may be the way someone stopped the car or spoke to that person,” Koskinas explains.

“We look at the body camera. Maybe the officer spoke in a monotone. We try to explain what goes into controlling a scene.” Often, he says, a complaint is then withdrawn.

“But we do speak to the officers. We do adjust policies. We take every complaint seriously.”

Nearly all police interactions with the public are positive.

The Representative Town Meeting is currently examining a Civilian Review Board ordinance. Its members would be elected by the public.

Already though, the Civilian Review Panel is up and running. They are reviewing their first incident.

“Mr. Marpe and I believe in this,” Koskinas says. “We want to set it up for long success.”

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)