Suffield Fire Department Facts and Figures; an Interview with Chief Flynn

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It occurred to us at the Observer that we didn’t know a lot about the work of a department critical to our town’s well being, so in an effort to remedy that, I sat with Chief Charles Flynn who patiently gave me facts, figures and answers to several questions about the Suffield Fire Department (SFD). I thank him for his time and am grateful for the career firefighters and volunteers who help keep our town safe.

How many fire stations do we have and what equipment is available in each one?

There are four firehouses and eight apparatuses. The main station, at 73 Mountain Road, houses an engine with a 1000-gallon tank called a pumper, a 100-foot aerial ladder truck and a rescue vehicle which contains everything that might be needed on an emergency call, i.e., breathing tanks, ropes, ice rescue materials, Jaws of Life and traffic safety materials, etc. In addition, there is the Chief’s vehicle and a pickup truck. Station 2, at 9 Ratley Road in West Suffield, houses a 2500-gallon pumper, and a small utility truck with a trailer that pulls an ATV with a pump which is used to fight brush fires. Station 3, at 3 Copper Hill Road (Ebbs Corner), garages a 1000-gallon pumper and has an additional 1800- gallon tanker with a small pump. At 73 Thompsonville Road, Station 4, there is one 1000-0gallon pumper and the fire marshal’s pickup truck.

Are all the fire houses manned? The main station is manned 24/7. The others are not. During the weekdays, there are two firefighters, the Fire Marshal, and the Chief at the main station. On weekends and at night, the staff number varies but there is always at least one person on duty there.

How many paid employees are there? With the recent addition of two new hires, there are eight full time employees including the Chief. They work 40 hours/week on a rotating schedule.

How many volunteer firefighters are there? There are 30 volunteers who get paid $12.50 for each call they go on. They also receive a stipend of between $500 to $800, depending on their certification. Additionally, after a volunteer has completed two years of service, 30 hours of training per year, and responded to a varying percentage of calls based on the location served, (s)he is entitled to a tax abatement of $200 which rises to $1000 once the volunteer has served for six years.

What is the training for volunteers? The initial training for volunteers is identical to that of career firefighters except that it is spread out over a longer time period. For a firefighter level 1 certification the training consists of 160 hours. Those hours deal just with keeping the firefighter safe. Subsequent training deals with enhancing the firefighter’s education and specialty certifications. A minimum of 30 additional hours per year is required to maintain certification. OSHA requires the department to provide 12 distinct training subjects per year. In Suffield, training is held for 2–3 hours every Monday night. The fee of $1200 for the initial training is borne by the Department. In 2016 the members of the SFD completed 4741.5 hours of training.

What equipment is provided to Suffield firefighters? Each firefighter receives personal protection gear consisting of a coat, pants, helmet, gloves, and a thermal protection hood, the cost of which is $3000 and must be replaced every 10 years. Additionally, a self-contained breathing apparatus consisting of a mask and two tanks is provided at a cost of $7500.

How many calls do you make in a year? About 500 service calls per year. About 80% of the calls are east of route 187 and most occur between 7 a.m and 5 p.m. There are, approximately, another 1400 responses which we handle in a year. These things consist of inspections, issuing permits, responding to motor vehicle accidents, fluid spills, searching for people lost in the woods, hazardous situations, farm accidents, etc. In 2016 we logged 3487.5 hours for just our volunteers or an average of 120 hours per volunteer.

What is your average response time? It obviously varies but we are required to have people on the scene within 16 minutes. It takes us about 1 minute to handle the call and get the dispatch done. On average we have an engine at the scene in 8 minutes.

Can you explain how a municipality’s fire service affects a homeowner’s insurance cost? The Insurance Services Office (ISO) rates each town on a 1 to 10 scale with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. The factors include the number, age, and type of equipment in use; dispatch handling; the water supply; the number of personnel responding to a fire; training records and fire prevention and code enforcement activities. Most towns fall between 4 and 7 with only two towns in CT with a 1 rating. Suffield is rated 5.5. Because we don’t have hydrants in sections of our town, we lose points on water supply, but we are able with our tanks to provide 7300 gallons of water to fight a fire.

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