Groton commission approves plan for fire training

Groton — The Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday approved a plan from the town's fire departments for a training site behind the Town Hall Annex, but restricted some types of training to weekends.

The next step would be for a memorandum of understanding to go before the Town Council.

The Groton Fire Officers Association, comprising the town's fire departments, is making the proposal for a centralized site where the departments could train together. Mutual aid partners, with oversight from a Groton representative, also could use the site for training, and it also would be open to other town departments, including Public Works and police, said Anthony Manfredi Jr., deputy fire chief with the Mystic Fire Department and training coordinator with the Groton Fire Officers Association.

To accommodate the use by the fire departments, the plan calls for relocating a storage area used by Public Works to an area north of the salt shed, said Greg Hanover, town engineer with the Public Works Department.

"The Fire Training facility includes live fire training within an engineered training trailer, vehicle extrication, basic firefighting drills such as laddering, forcible entry and confined space rescue," according to a town staff summary of the project. "The drainage system behind the Annex will be improved with water storage tanks to capture any water used during training."

Manfredi said firefighters wouldn't bring any hazardous materials on the site. Proposed equipment includes training trailers, roof simulators for firefighters to practice ventilation, and vehicles, which wouldn't contain any gasoline, for firefighters to practice extrications. The firefighters also would use an existing shed on site to practice bailing out a window and conducting searches, he said. 

Manfredi showed the commission a photo of the Mystic Fire Department's 40-foot box trailer in which firefighters complete the live fire training that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires annually.

"Nobody is going to be affected," he said, adding that the firefighters have to follow "very stringent requirements" when they burn and that the fires within the trailer are very small and could be put out with the amount of water in one pumper.

Mystic Fire Chief Frank "Fritz" Hilbert said the firefighters wouldn't use any firefighting foam. The only exception would be the potential use of Class A foam that doesn't contain any PFAS, a chemical considered an emerging health concern, but he doesn't envision using even that.

Assistant Planning Director Deb Jones said that in terms of addressing environmental concerns, the plan calls for no foam to be used. The fire departments won't be using water in every training session but, when they do, it will be collected in tanks purchased by the fire departments.

She said the training sessions will be scheduled through the town manager's office, who also schedules meetings at the Town Hall Annex, so there won't be a traffic concern. She also noted that another concern was the possibility of theatrical fire smoke or live fire smoke entering the building, since the intake vent for the airflow is located in the back of the building, so she recommended that such training be limited to Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays for the first year, and then reviewing that restriction at the end of the year.

The commission approved the site plan, with the recommended stipulation that training involving live fire and theatrical smoke be limited to Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays. The commission said it would review at the end of the first year whether additional measures are needed to prevent fumes from entering the Town Hall Annex or whether the restriction can be adjusted.

Old Mystic Fire Chief Ken Richards Jr. called the training site a great idea and said the fire departments have been working for years to try to find a centralized location in town.

"We're definitely in support of them," he said by phone on Tuesday.


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