WOODBRIDGE, Conn.-- A fire that ripped through the second floor of the town's outdated fire station Saturday is being investigated by the state fire marshal's office, but doesn't look suspicious, local officials said Sunday.
The state fire marshal could not be reached Sunday, but Fire Chief Andrew Esposito said the fact that the state kept the building in local hands is a good indication that investigators don't think arson occurred.
"If there was any doubt that they thought this might be arson, the state fire marshal guys would have never left the building," Esposito said. "It would have been a crime scene."
Esposito, Board of Fire Commissioners Chairwoman Beth Heller and others associated with the fire department are sensitive about what the public might think, in part because of the continued controversy over a proposal to build a new fire station, which was shot down by a 60 percent to 40 percent vote two years ago.
The volunteer fire department's apparatus, much of which was parked Sunday in the parking lot of the town library, which backs up to the 1938-era firehouse, is "all 100 percent" and "nobody was hurt," Esposito said.
But the fire station's upstairs meeting room, kitchen and bathroom all were destroyed and the building is now basically "a garage," he said and currently there is no electricity in the building.
Several windows were boarded up Sunday evening and two firefighters were on the scene opening bay doors and starting fire trucks and other apparatus to make sure they were functioning properly.
The fire station was empty at the time the fire was reported, at 5:52 p.m. Saturday, he said.
"We had people on the scene in two minutes" and the fire was completely extinguished in less than 30 minutes, Esposito said.
"It's extremely hard, when you're used to going through the same protocols when you're on the scene, when you're inhibited when you go to your own building by heavy smoke in your own building," he said. "The first 10 minutes were very chaotic" with firefighters wanting to fight the fire but realized that, first, "you have to get your own apparatus out."
"What a wonderful job they all did," said Heller.
On Sunday, members were pitching in to help clean things up and "they got a fire call in the middle of cleaning up" about 10:30 a.m. "They made the call in record time and were right back there."
Among the things recovered undamaged from inside the fire station were a bunch of 1930s-era photos, Heller said.
Woodbridge firefighters had help fighting the fire from the Orange and Bethany fire departments, with some firefighters also on the scene from Ansonia and Seymour, Esposito said.
First Selectman Ed Sheehy said that in addition to damaging the kitchen and meeting room area, the fire knocked out several windows and firefighters fighting the fire had to create a couple of holes in the roof to vent it.
Any recommendation from the New Fire Station Building Committee would go to the Board of Selectmen and if the selectmen approve, they would then call a special town meeting, possibly in the form of a referendum, Sheehy said.
The fire station "doesn't meet fire code for 2006," Esposito said.
Mark Zaretsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 789-5722.
Copyright by New Haven Register 2006.
Republished with permission of the New Haven Register.