There was much excitement on St. Nicholas Road on Monday, July 23. The three Darien Fire Departments performed a joint on-site exercise in the use of power saws and ventilation practices, as well as conducting evolutions that involve smoke from burning wood, and to stimulate conditions for forcible entry and search and rescue.

Training exercises are an essential part of preparedness, but opportunities to do so at an existing structure rather than the Fire Tower arise only once or twice a year. Here, since the building was slated for demolition the following week, the new owner had offered to the first responders an opportunity for training on a large three story structure. The old farmhouse had served earlier owners for almost a century and it was now called to service one last time.

The joint exercises involved five engines, including Ladder Truck 30, the longest ladder in town, chain saws, ladders and a number of utility trucks. The training took place under the guidance of the Darien Volunteer Fire Department’s Chief Victor Pensiero, since the location is within his district. He was assisted by the Chief of the Noroton Heights Fire Department, Ron Riolo, as well as officers and staff from the Noroton Fire Department. A total of about 50 personnel took place in the training.

As the Captain of the Noroton Heights Fire Department explained to the neighbors, understanding and executing ventilation practices is essential for the firefighters. When the first responders arrive at the building, it is often clouded in smoke and fire is visible at the windows. In that situation, ventilation is the planned and systematic task of removing heat, smoke and fire gases from a structure and replacing them with fresh, cool air. If the space is not properly ventilated, heat builds up to the point of a flash explosion, often lethal.

Also, when ventilation is limited, a window may fail or backdraft is introduced at the door, so planned ventilation using power saws and other equipment will allow heat and fire to move either horizontally or vertically through the structure. As became obvious for the neighbors during the joint exercise, the tasks of the firefighters involve as much management talent as proper response to physical challenges. A fascinating aspect of the evening was witnessing how well the three Darien Fire Departments work together as a team.

Neighbors were also able to observe the use of the personal protective equipment. Technology has evolved over time to reduce the risks to the fire fighters – but there is no technology that can eliminate all the risks.

Grateful for their first responders’ courage and professionalism, the people of Darien have generously supported their fire departments. These contributions resulted in substantial savings to the Town of Darien budget. Donations to the Darien Fire Fighters Foundation can be made directly on the DFD, NFD or NHFD websites or by participating in the annual Lobster for Ladders fundraising event. This year, this event will be at Weed Beach on Saturday, September 15, starting at 6:00 pm.