Darien Firefighters Gear Up for Increased Demand Amid Development Boom

The Noroton Heights Fire Department in Darien (CT Examiner).


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DARIEN — With several major developments — Darien Commons, The Corbin District and Heights Crossing — under construction in town, Darien is on track to add 300 apartments and over 235,000 square feet of retail and dining space over the next two years. And the three local fire departments have been actively preparing to meet the anticipated demands of a growing population and increased commercial activity.

“There’s a higher potential for everything, but that’s what we train for and we’re prepared,” said Chief Brendan Keane, of Noroton Fire Department.

Each of Darien’s fire departments, which work closely with one another, have undergone enhanced training in high-rise rescue and fire response, and procured new equipment tailored for larger and taller buildings.  

According to Chief Zach McEwan of the Noroton Heights Fire Department, a specific challenge for their station is the large underground parking garage constructed at Darien Commons.  

“We didn’t have one of those before,” McEwan said. “That’s something new that we had to adapt to.” 

The parking garage’s low ceilings restrict the access of firetrucks. To address this, the department has acquired longer hoses and conducted specialized training at the parking garage so personnel could practice pulling the new 600-foot lines.

Additionally, the stations have purchased fire blankets, which are designed to smother and contain electrical vehicle fires and are crucial in case of an underground auto fire.

The city of Milford’s recent prohibition of underground electric vehicle charging stations has drawn more attention to the risks associated with car fires in underground parking garages. Darien’s fire chiefs say they are aware of the potential dangers, but are confident they have the equipment and training to handle any eventuality. 

With more residents, shoppers and diners in town, the stations are anticipating a higher number of calls.  

According to McEwan, the opening of Darien Commons has led to an uptick in the number of calls to the station, which currently responds to more than 600 alarms annually. Keane said Noroton is also experiencing an increase in call volumes.  

Darien Fire Department, the oldest and busiest of the town’s three stations, averages around 700 calls per year.  

Despite the presence of The Corbin District in his service area, Darien Fire Chief Brian Francefort said he has not yet seen an increase in emergency calls. He attributes that, in part, to the diligence of Baywater Properties, the development company behind The Corbin District. 

“They are phenomenal when it comes to making sure that the alarm systems work and are maintained properly,” he said. 

Francefort also noted that advanced fire suppression and detection technology in the newer buildings may ultimately lead to a decrease in emergency calls.

Despite the new challenges, the town’s fire departments said they remain committed to delivering the highest level of service. Looking ahead, the three fire chiefs expressed optimism about the future and hopeful that their ranks will grow as the town expands.  

“We’re a 100 percent volunteer fire service and we’re always looking for more volunteers,” McEwan said.