Selectmen seek to speed up fire truck purchase



BEACON FALLS — Following a fire that destroyed a home on Blackberry Hill Road Sunday, the Board of Selectmen is looking to expedite buying a new fire truck.

“Prior to yesterday’s event I was one of those that was 100 percent sold on waiting until July for the ladder truck,” said First Selectman Gerard Smith during the board’s meeting Monday. 

A fire ravaged the home at 144 Blackberry Hill Road Sunday. Three men, including two firefighters, were injured during the blaze. The house had to be knocked down.

Early this month, residents approved bonding up to $700,000 to purchase a new fire truck that is a combination ladder truck and pumper. The town was planning to purchase the truck after it had applied for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that could cover up to 90 percent of the cost. It could take until July for the town to hear if it had received the grant.

After seeing how useful a ladder truck would have been during Sunday’s fire, Smith said his position has changed.

“Here we had a single-story structure that was on fire and just to vent the roof guys were put in harms way by putting a ladder against the building and a ladder on the roof. As the fire personnel were watching, the smoke was turning different colors and the roof could have caved in and we could have lost one of our guys through the roof into the building,” Smith said.

Firefighters from Beacon House Company No. 1 filled the assembly room Monday night. Before the meeting officially started Smith took a moment to thank the firefighters for their service on Sunday.

“After what happened yesterday I’m glad you guys are all here because I wanted to say that on behalf of all of the citizens of Beacon Falls, ‘Thank you.’ I saw you first hand do what you do. It’s one thing to hear it, it’s another thing to see it in action,” Smith said

Smith is recommending purchasing the truck through bonding immediately rather than waiting on the potential grant funds.

“My reasoning is it happened on Sunday, it could happen on Tuesday,” Smith said.

Fire Chief Michael Pratt said the town could still apply for the grant and use the money towards equipment, such as thermal imaging cameras, for the new truck.

Selectman David D’Amico supported the decision to move forward with the purchase.

“As I said before, buy the truck,” D’Amico said.

Selectman Christopher Bielik said the matter will have to be brought back to residents at another town meeting. 

Smith agreed, saying that the public will have the final say on the issue.

Smith said any new resolution would not undo the vote to purchase the fire truck. It would only free the town from having to wait until it hears back from the grant before purchasing the truck, he said.

The board voted to move the issue to a town meeting Monday night. But it was subsequently determined the vote violated town regulations regarding meeting agendas. So, the board couldn’t legally act upon it.

The board is scheduled to hold a special meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. to vote on the issue. A date for a town meeting has not been set yet.