From our humble beginning as a department with one engine stored in a borrowed garage, the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company has grown steadily through the years, always rising to meet new challenges and keep pace with the needs of the community. The Fire Company and town have always been fortunate in that there has always been an abundance of people ready to step forward and volunteer. Even though the Fire Company losses members from time to time, we have enjoyed a steady roster of ninety active firefighters and a dozen junior firefighters on average, for several years. Some of our members continue the commitment to service which began in early generations, as the Company contains several second and third-generation firefighters.
Additionally, the town and Fire Company have also been fortunate regarding the resources provided to them by the Simsbury Fire District. This is a result of the District's vision and sound fiscal policies, and is an equally important ingredient as to the level of protection in which we are able to offer the citizens of Simsbury.
Currently there are seven engines, two aerials, two rescues, one tanker, one brush unit, two marine units, an ATV, and several other support pieces quartered in six stations throughout the Town of Simsbury. The original stations have been replaced or upgraded and now offer amenities such as apparatus exhaust venting and drive-through bays. Apparatus are kept in good mechanical condition and are well-equipped. The department is fortunate to have three thermal imagers, and several automatic defibrillators onboard for firefighter safety.
The Fire Company typically responds to approximately 500 emergency and non-emergency incidents per year. Many of our firefighters are trained to the first responder medical level, and there are several EMT's in the department. However, first responder duty is handled by the police department and EMS is handled by the Simsbury Volunteer Ambulance Association, a separate entity within the Town of Simsbury.
Simsbury is a wonderful community in which to live and raise a family, as witnessed by its growth. When the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company was formed in 1944, approximately 4,000 people called the town's 34.5 square miles home. Today, the population has swelled to over 23,000 people, and there are 6,500 families in 8,500 households. Not only has the population grown larger because of the town's prosperity, but the size of new homes are growing larger too. It is not uncommon for new homes to be constructed in excess of 4,000 square feet, nor to be built some distance from the closest hydrant.
Members of Fire Company today still face some of the same challenges that the original members confronted, and more. Structure fires remain a primary concern for the department, and there still is the need to bring water to the fire in areas without hydrants.
To prepare for scenarios as these, the department holds several live burn drills each year accompanied by evolutions associated with fire suppression such as search and rescue, ventilation and ladder skills. The department also hones their skills in the arts of drafting and water shuttling, to ensure that we can bring water from a source to the fire when necessary.
The Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company is ready to handle more than just fires, as the nature of the town offers an array of scenarios which we must be prepared to content with. Simsbury may lack major routes of transportation and heavy industry, but it is not devoid of manufacturing or commercial businesses. Because of the associated hazards, the department created a HazMat Response Team with two-dozen members certified to the Technician level, and certified the majority of the remaining members to the Operational level.
Although the Fire Company doesn't officially have a technical rescue team, it does have many members trained in several disciplines. The majority of members are trained in confined space rescue, with several members trained in trench rescue, cold-water and ice rescue, and high-angle rescue.
The Fire Company is very proud of its rope-handling skills, as we have had to rescue the wayward adventurer on more than one occasion. The trail on Talcott Mountain leading to the Hueblein Tower is popular with hikers and hang gliders. The Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company has put their high-angle rescue skills to work on many occasions because of misadventures on the ridge.
The Company's rope skills also come in handy on the Farmington River where it plunges through the Tariffville Gorge; a stretch of the river popular with kayakers and swimmers. We commonly assist the police dive teams in search, rescue and recovery incidents by rigging a tension line across the river with a system of haul lines and pulleys. By tethering their dive boat with this system, we can hold them in a stationary position anywhere in the turbulent river so they can have a stable platform from which to commence dive operations from.
Training is the key to not only possessing these skills, but keeping them sharp for when they are most needed. Each year the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company holds on average, 48 Monday night drills, and several drills on other weeknights and on the weekends. In addition, members attend training courses locally at the Connecticut Fire Academy, and nationwide such as the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), the National Fire Academy and the Center for Domestic Preparedness.
The Fire Company also retrains and recertifies its members annually in accordance with several National Fire Protection Association, Occupational Health and Safety, and state guidelines. SCBA air masks are fit-tested, personal protective clothing is inspected, seminars regarding sexual harassment and universal precautions against bodily fluids are held, just to name a few.
Proud of our history and accomplishments in the past, complacency is not an option as the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company is always preparing for the future. Our Company has always been quick to adopt new concepts and technology such as the incident command system, fire-ground personnel accountability, rapid intervention teams and thermal imagers.
The Junior Firefighters Program was started in 1978 as a way of recruiting young adults and solidifying our ranks by generating interest in our vocation. Our Junior Firefighters Program was recognized with a 3rd place Junior Emergency Service Excellence Award given by Volunteer Fireman's Insurance Services, Inc. in 2002, and our Juniors have won the 2001 through 2005 state Junior Firefighter Challenges.
Building on the lessons from yesterday, we continue to work toward the future, always striving to fulfill our mission statement:
"To minimize deaths, injuries, and property loss from fire, hazardous conditions, rescue situations, and other disasters, by providing excellent, state of the art, life and property preservation, emergency and educational services, while recognizing our people as our most important resource and the key to our success!"