Vacant buildings offer unique training opportunity

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Naugatuck Firefighter Ryan Chapin douses a fire with water during a live burn training exercise at 42 Prospect St. in Naugatuck on Sept. 27. The department used the building and the former Vinny’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, which were both vacant, for training last week. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Firefighters battled blazes on Prospect Street last week that left two vacant buildings burned to the ground. The fires were different than ones the Naugatuck Fire Department has dealt with in the past — they were started intentionally by the firefighters.

The department used two vacant buildings at 42 Prospect St. and 46 Prospect St. to conduct a series of training exercises, including controlled burns to help firefighters understand and react to a structure fire.

“It gives our firefighters a realistic perspective of real buildings burning,” Capt. Walter Seaman said.

The buildings used in the training, one a two-family home and the other the former Vinny’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, are owned by brothers Vessel Nasufi and Remzi Nasufi.

Vessel Nasufi has received approval from borough land use boards to build a gas station and convenience store at 42-46 Prospect St. and 0 Golden Hill Road. He received a one-year extension for that plan in January. Vinny’s Restaurant and Pizzeria moved to South Main Street.

Seaman said that the Nasufis offered the department the buildings for training.

Remzi Nasufi said they wanted to allow the fire department to use the buildings to train so the firefighters would be better prepared for a real fire.

“If they don’t have a place to train how can they save any lives? So, I was more than happy to work with them,” Nasufi said.

The department conducted training last Thursday and last Friday at the site. The training included hose line evolution, and vent, enter, search, which requires a team of firefighters to locate and rescue a mannequin “victim” in a smoke-filled room.

There were also the live burns. Last Thursday, the department burned the vacant house. The department burned the former restaurant last Friday.

Naugatuck Firefighter David Christoff, right, hands a training dummy to Firefighter Michael Ames during a training at 42 Prospect St. in Naugatuck on Sept. 27. The department used the building and the former Vinny’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, which were both vacant, for training last week. –LUKE MARSHALL

Seaman said this type of training adds to what firefighters have already learned at the Connecticut Fire Academy. He pointed out that the fire academy uses a “class A burn building,” which is a concrete building that can be used for multiple fires but does not burn down totally.

“This just builds on the skills that are set [at the academy],” Seaman said.

A lot of work goes into ensuring a building is able to be used for a live burn, Seaman said.

The building and site had to be inspected to ensure it was safe to conduct the burns. The department also had to ensure there are no mortgages or insurance on the buildings being demolished, secure a demolition permit, and notify all the neighbors, Seaman said.

Seaman said the entire process took about six months.

“It is a lot of work to burn a building down,” Seaman said.

The Nasufis paid for the buildings to be fitted with material the department needed, such as sheetrock and plywood on the walls, Seaman said. The Nasufis are also responsible for cleaning up the site, he said.

Seaman said the chance to conduct live burn training is rare.

“They are far and few between,” Seaman said. “Some departments don’t ever get to do this. In a 20-year span maybe we will do this one more time.”