Volunteers step forward to fill Fire Police’s ranks

0
38

Captain John A. Deer runs the Fire Police in Naugatuck. Recently, the Naugatuck man has recruited and trained new volunteers to handle traffic issues and other hazardous situations in the borough. - RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Frank Bombardier recalled stories of firefighters getting hit by cars when he heard last year that the Fire Police were recruiting new volunteers.

“I wanted to do something to help out the people who help other people,” Bombardier said. “I’m no hero. I don’t run into burning buildings. I’m the guy who’s running out. I wanted to do something to protect those guys.”

Bombardier is one of five new additions to the volunteer force who have helped control traffic during Hurricane Irene and the blaze earlier this month at a Spring Street industrial building.

The new members, sworn in Aug. 26, joined an on-call volunteer crew that controls traffic during fires, power line repairs and crowded events.

“They do fulfill a vital function at the fire scene,” Fire Chief Ken Hanks said.

The fire department and Capt. John Deer, who runs the fire police, launched a recruiting drive last year after Deer realized there were only two active members on the force.

Deer was deputy chief of the Naugatuck Volunteer Fire Company, which disbanded in 2005 due to lack of membership. Fire police were part of the volunteer company, and members of the career department and fire commission wanted to keep them around to protect fire scenes.

Police can block traffic at emergency scenes, but if the police department is busy, firefighters do not get as much coverage as they would like, Deer said. When the volunteers direct traffic, more police are free to patrol and answer other calls.

Before they are sworn in, fire police receive classroom and field training and must work at least five scenes accompanied by another member of the force.

Bombardier, who is assistant meat manager at Stop & Shop in Southbury, said he is always allowed to leave work to respond in an emergency. Bombardier went to six calls just in his first week of training, he said.

“We’ll go a month without getting a call,” Bombardier said. “Then I was out there for 15 and a half hours straight the actual day of the hurricane. The day after, I lost track.”

The borough budgeted $1,000 this year for the fire police, who receive shirts, helmets, badges and reflective vests and operate a retired police cruiser complete with flashing lights. They receive lights for their personal vehicles as well, but they receive no pay or tax breaks.

New members can still join the fire police, Deer said.

“I would like to see more only because there’s a training process and there’s always attrition,” Deer said. “We’re always open to people who are interested in joining, because if you don’t, you’re going to get back to two again.”