NAUGATUCK — Last week, the Naugatuck Fire Department responded to a house fire on New Haven Road and needed to cross the Whittemore Memorial Bridge on Maple Street.
The bridge is undergoing construction and is closed to traffic going east, which is the direction in which firefighters were headed, so trucks needed to head the wrong way on what is now a one-way street.
Thanks to technology that was installed at the beginning of the construction project a month ago, firefighters have the ability to stop all traffic coming in the other direction. They hit a switch on the truck that activates a white light that is attached to the traditional fire lightbar. Once they hit the button, the stop light for traffic about to head over the bridge automatically turns red. Firefighters have 45 seconds to get over the bridge, Fire Capt. Michael Chatfield said.
He said this situation has played out several times in emergencies since bridge construction started on June 27.
“People have said that they don’t really know what to do when the fire trucks are coming toward them and they are on the bridge,” he said.
Firefighters wait for all bridge traffic to clear, so Chatfield encourages people to just keep driving until they are off the bridge.
The system that Naugatuck uses is the Opticom Emergency Vehicle Preemption, which states on its website that it enables cars, fire trucks and ambulances to navigate intersections more effectively.
“As a result, agencies can improve response times while reducing the potential for costly accidents,” the website says.
There are two other such systems in Naugatuck — at the intersection of High and South Main streets and at Prospect and Locust streets. The fire department can request access for green lights at those intersections, whereas the one on the Maple Street bridge only allows for the department to request red lights for other traffic.
Naugatuck police and ambulance do not have this access.