Hundreds apply for firefighter position

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FireDepartment
NAUGATUCK — The first week of July will mean retirement for two longtime employees of the Naugatuck Fire Department: firefighter Thomas Foley and dispatcher Vidas Melninkaitis.

Within two weeks, as many as 800 candidates will take a written test for Foley’s position.

“It appears to be the new normal around the state,” Fire Chief Ken Hanks said. “It’s very, very competitive now.”

About 500 people have completed the application available on firefighterapp.com, and Hanks is able to see that 300 more applications are being worked on. The application is open until June 28 and the test will be held July 14 in three shifts at City Hill Middle School.

The application and test will be used to whittle the pool down to 30 or 40 candidates that the Fire Commission will interview, Hanks said. After the interviews, the commission will create a short list they will use to hire candidates over the next two years.

When a firefighting position opened two years ago, 130 people applied, Hanks said. The commission hired three firefighters from that list before it expired.

Hanks cited the economy for the increasing number of applicants. He said Waterbury just tested 600 candidates for a firefighter position, Norwalk tested 1,200 and New Haven tested 2,000.

The starting salary for a borough firefighter is nearly $48,000.

The new firefighter should be hired at the commission’s August meeting, to start at the state fire academy in September and begin working in the borough in January, Hanks said. The fire department typically hires dispatchers with experience who do not need more than two weeks of training, Hanks said. He estimated the dispatcher job would be filled by Labor Day.

While the new firefighter is being hired and trained, others will fill the vacant shift on overtime, Hanks said. The new hire’s salary during training and overtime costs can total about $60,000, Hanks said.

Foley, who lives in Litchfield, has been working for the fire department for about 10 years after spending the same amount of time as a police officer, Hanks said.

Melninkaitis also worked for the police department doing line painting before joining the fire department, where he worked for 16 years. Their years with the police department will count toward their pensions.

Melninkaitis, 63, of Wolcott, said he was on duty during several big storms, including the microburst last August that dropped six inches of rain on the borough in one day, causing flash flooding.

“It seems like every time I’ve been on, I catch it,” Melninkaitis said. “Not that I’m complaining. I take the good with the bad and that’s what gets us all by.”

Melninkaitis said he might pursue part-time employment but has no definite post-retirement plans.

“Working for the town of Naugatuck was a real honor and a privilege,” Melninkaitis said. “It’s a very good town.”