NORTH HAVEN – It will cost the town approximately $800,000 to replace fire department gear contaminated in a chemical fire at Defco Industrial Park last month.
Fire Chief Paul Januszewski said all the equipment used by the 42 firefighters who responded was contaminated.
“We’re really operating on a shoestring when it comes to gear,” Januszewski said.
The contaminated equipment includes 42 sets of personal protective gear, including helmets, gloves, jackets, and pants. Januszewski said each set is about $3,500 per firefighter and is custom-fitted.
“The last thing you want to do is have a firefighter that’s going to be involved in an incident let’s say three years from now suffer some kind of injury, god forbid a death, and we can trace back anything that he’s wearing or using, back to this incident,” Januszewski said at a recent Fire Commissioners meeting.
A full replacement of these items is expected by the end of the month.
Career firefighters each have two sets of equipment, but volunteers typically have one. About 32 firefighters are employed full time.
Januszewski said he has not received a timeline for replacing contaminated air packs.
Until then, the department is borrowing about 50 air packs from the city of Stamford, which recently upgraded its systems and still had the old ones in storage.
He said the final numbers are still being determined, but the cost for replacing all the equipment is expected to be around $800,000. The fire department’s yearly budget is around $4.5 million.
Januszewski said town officials, including First Selectman Michael Freda, have been very supportive.
“Our goal is to replace the equipment as quickly as possible, front the money and then hopefully get reimbursed after the fact,” Freda said during the Dec. 6 Board of Selectman meeting.
He said insurance claims are being filed and Parker-Hannifin Corp., where the fire occurred, is considering a donation.
The chemical fire at Parker-Hannifin Corp., 33 Defco Park Road, started in the early morning of Nov. 24. It was called in by a police officer who noticed smoke. The building’s alarm did not sound.
When firefighters arrived, about a third of the 32,000 square foot building was engulfed.
Wallingford and Hamden each had five firefighters on scene, as well as North Branford. No injuries were reported.
This week the Wallingford Town Council allocated $46,836 to replace firefighter gear also contaminated in the fire. The Wallingford Fire Chief, Richard Heidgerd, said he anticipates the town’s insurance to reimburse the majority of the funds.
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