Danbury fire school proposal gets stamp of approval from Legislature’s public safety committee [Danbury News Times]

March 28, 2011

Article as Published in the Danbury News Times
Sunday, March 27, 2011

DANBURY — An ongoing effort to designate the Fire Department’s training facility as a state fire school has cleared a major hurdle.

The proposal, which received the unanimous support of the state Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, could bring additional resources to the city and allow fire departments from the area to train together.

“Understanding the abilities of other departments and learning to work together in a training environment makes us that much more prepared for an actual emergency when mutual aid is required,” said Fire Chief Geoff Herald.

For more than three years, Herald and the area’s legislative delegation have been pushing to have the department’s training facility on Plumtrees Road named a state fire school.

The fire chief said that as a state school, more classes can be held at the center.
Such a designation would save area fire departments time, money and wear and tear on expensive equipment, since they would no longer have to drive to Fairfield to reach the nearest state-designated school.

More than a dozen communities in the area already use the city’s training facility for that reason, Herald said.
Towns in the area that have already used the facility and support the designation of it as a state school include Bethel, Brookfield, New Milford, New Fairfield, Ridgefield, Bridgewater and Southbury.

While both Herald and state Rep. Jan Giegler, R-Danbury, stressed that the department would not be seeking state money for the school in the next two years, there is the potential in the future for grants and other funding for facilities upgrades and additional programing.

Giegler, a ranking member on the public safety committee, said the fact there this is no fiscal impact to the proposal made it an easier sell before the committee, especially given state’s budget crisis.

“That was a big plus,” she said.
Several area officials submitted testimony in favor of the proposal during a recent public hearing held before the committee, including state Sen. Michael McLachlan and Andrea Rynn, the director of government relations for Western Connecticut Healthcare Inc., which includes both Danbury and New Milford hospitals.

“Western Connecticut Healthcare is in a unique position to know firsthand the importance of supporting regional delivery of health and safety services,” Rynn said in her testimony.

McLachlan said in his testimony that designating the training facility as a state fire school will provide “a greater amount of resources, in turn giving those who attend the school opportunities to learn and save lives.”

The proposal will now go for a full vote before the Legislature.