The volunteers at the North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. will not hesitate to run into the top floor of a burning building to save a life, if necessary. They will pump water into the basement of a flaming home, trying to put the fire out, even when there is a danger that the whole building will come falling down.
But, really, they would rather have us all take all the precautions we can to make sure a fire never happens in the first place. Because, more than anything, they're all about keeping us safe.
And so these men and women--who are trained expert firefighters, EMTs, emergency responders, and also your neighbors--sponsored an open house Sunday at the North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. firehouse. The doors were thrown open, the gleaming fire trucks were pulled outside, educational materials were piled on tables, and the schedule was written out on a white board.
Food, drink, and firefighters at the ready
And the town came inside to take a look.
The town's residents were greeted by food, drink, and volunteer firefighters dressed in their uniforms and gear, ready to explain what they do and what we can do to help keep ourselves safe.
North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Don MacMillan started a tour with the 10-57 attack pumper. It carries about 5,000 gallons, an important detail for the north end of town, which the NoMads protect, because the north end of town does not have fire hydrants. If there is a fire that appears as though it will require more than 5,000 gallons, the NoMad firefighters might call for mutual aid, generally provided by Guilford, Durham, and Killingworth.
Water tanks tapped for really big fires
The North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. also has a tanker truck that can provide a water supply to other fire trucks. And there are also currently about 10 underground water tanks throughout North Madison--with about 30,000 gallons of water each--which can be tapped if necessary. To knock down a really big fire, a series of trucks from Madison and different fire companies might shuttle water in to the firefighters working to control the blaze.
It's not unlike a really big bucket brigade, MacMillan says, adding that he was happy that full funding to place additional water tanks through the north end of town has been replaced in the town's budget, after it was the subject of cutbacks several years ago.
The program is becoming more expensive and it can sometimes be problematic to place the tanks, due to issues relating to property lines and the rocky terrain of North Madison, MacMillan said. But he said the program appears to be on track for the time being, with further tanks being planned and in the works.
Special apparatus, training, in-depth knowledge of town required
The NoMad firefighters, in addition to fighting house fires, sometimes are called upon to fight brush fires. In addition to whatever water they might carry on the truck, they also have some apparatus that can tap supply ponds, although this can be problematic due to the varying levels of water in the ponds, and pond scum that can clog equipment. The fire truck designed to help fight brush fires is equipped with water backpacks that firefighters can use to help fight those fires, along with a hose that weeps, which can help fight a brush fire as well.
The North Madison firehouse is set up to do some training, MacMillan said, showing off a partially finished attic area that has a maze that includes wires, trap doors, little windows and other difficulties that a firefighter might encounter as--dressed in bulky, protective clothing and with an air pack on their back--they make their way through a smoke filled burning home.
The firefighters also spend time getting to know about the different kinds of homes in the north end of town. It's not enough to know the difference between a ranch and colonial. These firefighters need to know the difference between a Milano ranch and a Milano colonial, and what they might expect to find once they step inside the door.
How they help us, how we can help them
"When we pull up to a house, it's best if we know how the hallways are set up and where the bedrooms are located," MacMillan said. "We'll also make decisions on how to proceed based on what we find outside. If we are at a house with no cars in the middle of the day, we might approach it one way. If we are at a house with three cars in the driveway at 3 a.m, we might approach it a different way."
With all that these firefighters do for the town, one question is what can the town do for these firefighters. Here are some ideas.
First, make sure your home is safe. Here are some tips from the National Fire Safety Association:
- Make an escape plan
- Install smoke detectors in every sleeping room, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home and check the batteries often
- Install fire sprinklers throughout your house
- Once you’re out, stay out! Do not re-enter a burning building
- Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year
Second, consider volunteering your time, if this is something you can do. The North Madison Volunteer Fire Co. is always looking for new members and you can apply right on their website.
They also have an Explorer post for younger members of the community, from 14 to 21 years of age.
Kyle Boling, a member of the Explorers, was among the many volunteers there Sunday and he encouraged people to consider becoming an Explorer. "I've been here for a little over a year and a half and I love it," he said.
Third, you can provide support through donations. Again, from the website:
The NMVFC depends on the financial support of our friends and neighbors to maintain its level of service. Each year we send out fundraiser mailings. All donations are Tax Deductible and greatly appreciated.
Donations can be forwarded to:
North Madison Volunteer Fire Company
864 Opening Hill Road
Madison, CT 06443
MacMillan said he is grateful, both for the support provided by the town, which helps the fire company buy new equipment, and by the town residents, who help provide additional support through their donations.
"The community has always been very supportive of us and I thank them," he said.