Milford fire union sounds alarm on equipment issues; fire commissioner disputes concerns

While the department's six fire engines are each equipped with a 24-foot ground ladder, that only allows access to the first and second floor of a typical building.

Marissa Alter

Apr 5, 2023, 11:47 PM

Updated 465 days ago

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Milford firefighters regularly respond to alarms. Now the fire union president is sounding one.
“We don't want to be out here. You know, we want to just do our jobs. And in order to do our jobs, we need the right tools,” said Ryan LaGuardia, president of IAFF Local 944.
Aerial apparatus are critical to firefighters, but from Friday morning until noon Wednesday, the department didn't have any working ladder trucks, according to LaGuardia. One is back, with a 75-foot ladder, but LaGuardia worries that's not enough with the construction boom of high-rise apartment buildings and raised homes on the shore.
“Another aerial ladder, Quint 3, is out of service and will be out of service for what some time. Our tower ladder, which is a 100-foot bucket truck, has been out of service for about two years,” LaGuardia said.
While the department's six fire engines are each equipped with a 24-foot ground ladder, that only allows access to the first and second floor of a typical building.
“Every minute that we don't have adequate fire protection is detrimental to our citizens, and quite frankly, our members,” LaGuardia told News 12. “I feel it's our duty as firemen to let the public know what's going on.”
But Kevin McGrath, chairman of the Milford Fire Commission, disputed those claims and said community members have no cause for concern.
“My number one priority and the commission's number one priority and the city of Milford’s priority is the city of Milford’s citizens, both business and residential,” McGrath countered. “I can tell you with complete confidence that we will never put our folks in the department in any kind of harm’s way.”
McGrath said the other 75-foot aerial truck has a blown motor and supply chain issues have delayed getting it fixed.
“They are quoting 120 days for parts. We've been in communication with the garage over the last four to five days, and we believe we're going to be able to shorten that window to possible 30 to 40 days,” McGrath explained. “We're at the mercy of getting parts for the engine. This is something like you would experience in your own home where something goes down and you've got to replace it.”
McGrath told News 12 the 100-foot bucket truck LaGuardia mentioned was retired, and the board of aldermen and fire commission have already approved a new one, but “on average in the U.S. for a new fire engine, you're looking at anywhere from 18 to 24 months.”
In the meantime, neighboring West Haven and Stratford are being called over with their aerial apparatus when needed. LaGuardia said that happened on Saturday when a rooftop air conditioning unit caught fire and West Haven helped respond. Though everything worked out, he worried it could lead to delayed response times.
LaGuardia blamed the trucks being out of commission with the city getting rid of its maintenance division several years ago and outsourcing work.
“We're in line like everyone else. The municipality and the emergency services—we don't really have that priority at this point. These trucks are big trucks, they're driven hard, they idle for a long time. They need routine maintenance, and we just don't have the people to do that,” LaGuardia said.
But McGrath told News 12 that has nothing to do with it. He said the decision to contract mechanical work was made in agreement with the union and was necessary.
“Your equipment you have today is very computerized so it's not your typical truck, from a basic mechanic standpoint. You have to have professional people that know how to work on these and know how to turn it around quickly. The maintenance that was being done years ago, you could not do that today simply because of the complexity of computers, complexity of the vehicles,” McGrath said. “We are in constant dialogue and communication right now to see how we can always do things better and we are always looking at other aspects.”


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