Milford's new East Side Fire Station: modern and centrally located

The new East Side Fire Station on New Haven Avenue seems sprawling compared to the two older stations it replaces, and it’s certainly more modern.

The classroom space offers wireless connections, a projector and a whiteboard. A decontamination area lets firefighters clean their gear after a hazardous materials call in a self-contained area complete with separate drainage.

“We love it,” said firefighter Sean O’Brien, “though I admit I’m a little homesick for our little station.”

The new station was officially dedicated April 13. Firefighters from Stations 5 and 6, which the new East Side Fire Station replaces, started working at the new firehouse Feb. 21.

“It’s modern, it’s up to date,” said fire Lt. Clint LaPlant. “The others were a little dated, built in 1948.”

The two neighborhood fire stations — one in Woodmont and one at Point Beach — that the East Side replaces were more than starting to show their age, said Fire Department spokesman Kyle Brotherton. In the 1940s along the beach, builders used beach sand in their brick and mortar, and over time that starts to break down, Brotherton said.

There were other issues, too, like the fact that Stations 5 and 6 weren’t handicapped-accessible, and they weren’t designed to hold the 36,000-pound and heavier fire trucks that fight today’s fires.

Four shifts of six firefighters work out of the new firehouse on New Haven Avenue. And with the new location, responders are closer to spots north of the Post Road, like Red Bush Lane. Closing the gap on that area was something that ISO standards called for.

When most of Milford’s firehouses were built, development was primarily along the water. Today, the fire stations need to service property in the opposite direction of the beach, and former Chief Louis LaVecchia really pushed to have a new firehouse that would maintain the Class 1 ISO rating, said acting fire Chief Robert Healey.

The new fire station was more than just a little overdue in terms of construction. The builder, Salce Contracting Associates of Stratford, was about a year behind schedule in finishing the project, and there is still a punch list of items that need to be corrected or finished.

Judith Toohey, a member of the East Side Fire Station Building Committee, didn’t feel comfortable talking about what, if any, action the city will take regarding the delay. According to city officials, that aspect of the project is still under consideration.

Toohey, however, did note how happy she is with the way the firehouse came out, and she said the project came in under budget, at about $4 million for the land and the fire station.

“Thanks to the dedication of the committee, especially John Healy and Bill Brennan, the station was built as we thought it should be done. I think it’s phenomenal. It’s a great firehouse.”

The new station has four bays, plus a sprawling, modern kitchen, a day room for downtime, a classroom for training, complete with wireless and other modern technology, officers quarters, a weight room, a storage area, a supply room, and a decontamination room.

The individual bunk rooms, plus a designated ladies’ room, make the new fire station amenable to female firefighters, though the city hasn’t yet had a woman firefighter.

The amenities here have been provided by the firefighters themselves. Though the city purchased some of the weight equipment, for example, much of it was brought in by the firefighters.

Staying in shape is a big part of the job, LaPlant said. “There are annual weigh-ins and physicals,” he explained.

The men also bought a couple of big-screen televisions, which come in handy during downtime, and they decorated the walls with firefighting posters and photos they gathered or took themselves of local fires and rescues.

“The guys take care of themselves,” LaPlant said, explaining that the men wash the fire trucks, clean the bathrooms and mow the lawns here. “That’s a firefighters’ tradition,” he said.

Of the two older stations, Station 5 is expected to become the new Woodmont Borough Hall and community center. The borough agreed to take over the building from the city for $1 and then take on the responsibility of maintenance and repairs.

Station 6 on Melba Street will most likely be turned over to the city at some point, Chief Healey said. Right now, the Police Department is using part of the building for radio equipment.