SOUTHINGTON — Fire commission members praised the response time of fire crews to a car blaze Monday that damaged a Dunkin’ Donuts on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike near the Meriden line.
Deputy Fire Chief Scott DiBattista said the scene was a long drive from headquarters on North Main Street, one of two locations in town with on-duty firefighters around the clock.
The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined, but it started in the engine compartment of a vehicle in the Dunkin’ drive-through. A video on social media shows the car engulfed in flames. Heat from the fire damaged the restaurant but no one was injured.
Fire commission member Chris Robertson said the damage could have been much worse. Career and volunteer firefighters responded to the incident.
“I think the response time was incredible,” he said. “They did a hell of a job.”
The alarm came in at 12:17 p.m. according to DiBattista, who was first on the scene in a command truck at 12:28 p.m. Department leaders are usually the first to arrive and they’re responsible for getting people away from the fire and planning the response when engines arrive.
DiBattista said there was nothing he could have done to extinguish the fire himself.
“I could have had 100 fire extinguishers and I couldn’t have put it out,” he said.
Fires in that section of town can be a challenge to reach quickly.
“From headquarters, it’s a long response,” DiBattista said. “It’s almost on the Meriden line.”
Even when using lights and sirens, Fire Department vehicles have to move cautiously through intersections and are sometimes required to navigate traffic on major roads.
The first engine from headquarters arrived a minute after DiBattista. A volunteer engine arrived shortly thereafter.
When responding to a fire, volunteers must first respond to their station and suit up before heading to the scene.
Staffing changes have added career firefighters at Station 5 in the north end of town around the clock to improve response times. Robertson said the plan implemented by Chief Richard Butler has resulted in good coverage throughout town and improved times by volunteers.
“The volunteers have stepped up. They’re getting out the door,” Robertson said.
In the future, there may be a need for a station staffed around the clock with career firefighters in the south end of town, but Robertson said he is pleased with the current plan.
“In my opinion the town is now totally covered,” he said.