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Sunday, June 18, 2000

June 18, 2000 Large homes a problem for Fire Department - Greenwich Time

Greenwich firefighters, according to Fire Chief Daniel Warzoha, are facing a new challenge:

keeping on top of firefighting techniques when new houses keep getting bigger.An April fire at a 13,000-square-foot home on Perkins Road shows the problems of fighting mansion fires, Warzoha said. With more than 30 firefighters on the job for about 40 minutes, the decision was made to sacrifice part of the house and stop the fire from consuming any more of the building."We had to change tactics to try and establish ourselves in an aggressive manner to cut off the fire," Warzoha said. "We realized the potential to lose the whole wing, so we established a point in the building to make a stand and stop the fire."In some parts of Greenwich, a 13,000-square-foot house is a modest home. House sizes have continued to grow, even after November 1998 Planning and Zoning regulations attempted to rein in square footage. In areas such as Conyers Farm, where lots are divided by 10-acre parcels, house sizes can go as high as 27,225 square feet. A 54,450-square-foot mansion would be allowable if the buyer purchased 20 acres of land.Many homes being built now are more than 20,000 square feet, topping the size of Greenwich Avenue office buildings. But unlike those buildings, Warzoha said, the building codes that require sprinklers, shaftways andcertain sorts of nonflammable materials in commercial buildings don't apply to private homes. And unlike most office buildings, large houses don't have any uniformity in design, he added. "With each different unique structure, there comes a unique structure problem for us."State standards of operation exist for fighting different sorts of structure fires, but none has been written for large single-family homes, he said. So as house sizes grow, the department is learning on its feet, coming upwith its own plans and techniques for saving mansions. "Nobody has developed that program on a state level yet," Warzoha said. "Doing a large, single-family structure fire - it's definitely a difficult animal."The difference between homes and most commercial buildings is one of compartmentalization, according to Walt Sterling, Senior Fire Protection Specialist for the National Fire Prevention Association, a Quincy, Mass.-based nonprofit group that creates models of building and safety codes that can be implemented by municipalities around the country. "In a home, you have more compartments, more individual rooms, whereas in a commercial building you have more open space," he said. Commercial buildings tend to have rooms sectioned off around the periphery of the floor with open space in the middle, making navigating the area when visibility is limited by thick smoke easier, Sterling said. But when visibility is bad, a predictable floor plan only makes things so much easier.The bigger difference between commercial buildings and some private homes is the presence of sprinklers, he said. And residential sprinkler systems, he said, are becoming more and more common. About 2,000 municipalities around the country - from Massachusetts to Florida, Arizona and California - now have ordinances requiring sprinklers based on the size of the structure, not its use.In many areas, he added, the push for sprinklers has had as much to do with staffing as with public safety. Fighting a fire in a large home in a secluded area requires a lot of people to make up for time lost in getting there. Large houses also tend to have lots of furniture and decorations, making the fire more severe and a harder battle, he said. "There's a lot of communities that require sprinkler protection for certain size buildings, but it's because of the manpower," Sterling said. "Their budgets are strapped."Sprinkler systems have seen improvements in recent years as well, he said. While sprinklers have been in use for about 100 years, new systems on the market go off within about 45 seconds after the heat detector is triggered, twice as quickly as the ones on the market just a few years ago did, he said. And a sprinkler spreading 15 or 20 gallons of water will do a lot less damage to the interior than hoses that spray between 175 and 200 gallons a minute when the fire trucks show up.What has made getting such ordinances passed in many communities, however, are homeowners associations. Local governments might be reluctant to impose standards on private homes if property owners complain about the costs of installing the systems, he said.Such problems could pose difficulties in Greenwich if new building codes or sprinkler ordinances were ever discussed, Warzoha said. "It's easier to regulate (commercial buildings) because of the occupancy of the structure," Warzoha said. "It's not a single-family home, so there's a code. You can regulate the materials that go into a public structure - you can't in a private house."A person's home is their castle," he added. "They have eminent domain over their property."

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Saturday, June 17, 2000

Saturday, 17 June 2000 GHS adds to security after fires - Greenwich Time

Greenwich High School officials sought police help in maintaining order on campus during a week that included one assault and three arsons.

Assistant Headmaster Alan Capasso said the administration decided to call in police officers to supplement the school's security force during the traditionally tumultuous final week of classes after two arsons on Wednesday.

Capasso said at 11:45 a.m. that day he discovered flames coming from a trash barrel at the northwest corner of the student center, near Folsom House. He quickly extinguished the fire and carried the barrel out of the building.

Five minutes later when he returned to the student center, Capasso said, he noticed smoke coming from a barrel near the first one. He put out the smoldering contents and alerted police. No one was found responsible for the fires as of yesterday.

Capasso said yesterday that the Wednesday fires prompted him to seek police help for the last two days of school.

"We asked the police to assist us in monitoring the student center," Capasso said.

Police presence on campus was increased yesterday as the school twice called for additional assistance. Shortly before 6 a.m. police officers were called in to conduct a sweep of school grounds after a custodian reported suspicious activities. Nearly 10 students had tried to enter the building through side doors but scattered without incident when police arrived, Capasso said.

Capasso said he suspected the activities might be connected to a possible end-of-year plan that was thwarted.

However, around 11 a.m. a group of students created a disturbance in the student center by blowing whistles and popping balloons and water bottles, Capasso said. The administration called the police again.

Half a dozen officers, along with sergeants and detectives led by Deputy Chief James Walters, arrived to calm the scene. No arrests were made.

"We'd want to make sure all students were safe," Capasso said, "and we felt that the police presence would help."

A student set a fire in a trash bin at the student center Monday, according to Fire Department Inspector George Hannigan. Capasso said the student confessed to his act and was suspended, but no name was released because of the student's age.

On Tuesday sophomore Latoya Montgomery was charged with third-degree assault after a physical altercation with another student. Both sustained minor injuries but did not require medical attention, police said. Montgomery, 16, was released on a promise to appear Wednesday at state Superior Court in Stamford.

The assistant headmaster said he expects next week, exam week, to be calm and the school would not need police support.

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Friday, June 16, 2000

June 16, 2000 Fire Truck Heads For The Border - Greenwich Time

After being in reserve for seven years, the Round Hill Fire Department's 1969 American LaFrance fire truck is going back on duty.

The truck has left the Greenwich station en route to Ecuador, where it will be used to fight fires once again.

Evan Delman, assistant fire chief at Round Hill Fire Department, drove the fire truck to Staten Island, N.Y., on Wednesday, where it will be shipped to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador, on Monday.
Now that the fire truck is set to go, Delman says, "I'm really excited about going down to Ecuador É they desperately want it."

Delman will travel to Ecuador to train firefighters to use the fire truck's pump and hose, as well as how to put out a fire.

The assistant fire chief said the American LaFrance, now valued at between $10,000 and $14,000, was the first diesel fire truck in Greenwich. It fought its last fire in 1993 and then was replaced by a new LaFrance in 1993 that cost about $300,000.

Since the Round Hill station bought a new fire truck, Delman, 35, a Greenwich resident, has been completing the necessary paperwork so the 1969 American LaFrance can be transported to Ecuador.

As a member of the White Plains Rotary Club, Delman got the idea to send the truck to Ecuador from fellow club member Dorila Misquero, who provides assistance to Ecuador. Misquero, an Ecuador native, has sent the country dental equipment and helped with its schools.

The 1969 LaFrance will be the first piece of fire-fighting apparatus in the area, according to Delman. The fire truck will be the only piece for 100 miles in Ecuador, he said.

"It's still a very effective piece of machinery," Delman said of the older truck. He said the 1969 fire truck can pump 1,000 gallons per minute whereas the new LaFrance pumps 1,500 gallons per minute.

The cost of shipping the fire engine, $840, is being covered by a shipping company in Ecuador, Delman said.

The White Plains Rotary Club donated about $2,000 to buy a new floating pump for the fire truck before it was shipped off. A floating pump supplies the truck with water.

Aside from volunteering as a firefighter, Delman works as a chiropractor in White Plains, N.Y. Since 1994 he has been a member of the White Plains chapter of the Rotary Club, a worldwide organization that raises money and donates it to people in need, and is one of several firefighters who currently teaches firefighting classes in Greenwich.

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