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New fire station highlights year for department

By JOE CENTERS • Feb 14, 2018 at 2:00 AM

It was an historic year for the Norwalk Fire Department.

From the start of a new station to the addition of two trucks to the fleet, Chief John Soisson said this has been one for the books.

Soisson gave his year-end report Tuesday night to city council.

“I knew coming into this job I was climbing a mountain,” Soisson said, talking about the station and the fleet.

“The first four months (last year) were weekly meetings with architects. Marv Ott and Jim Wasiniak were great helping us out. ... Cutting costs and getting the thing manageable. Dave Bleile, Mark Schaffer and John Lendrum also were a great help with all of their knowledge.

“We are off to a great start. The only thing that has hurt us has been Mother Nature.”

Plans call for the station to be done and ready to go by the end of October.

“I’ve been working on this for 10 years,” Soisson said. “I think I can wait an extra 30 days (if needed) and get it done right.”

While plans were ramping up for the new station, “the whole thing blew up in June or July,” Soisson said. “The (state Highway) Patrol came in and found a lot of defects with two of our trucks.”

In simple terms, the two trucks had seen their better days. After the vehicles failed to pass the inspections by the patrol, Soisson put them both out of service.

The city purchased a used truck, which was delivered in December, then took delivery of a new truck earlier this year.

“We ended up with two pieces of aparatus for the price I figure we would spend on one truck,” Soisson said. “I want to thank EHOVE (Career Center) and Ashland for lending us their trucks to get us through it.”

Soisson said the calls were just about the same as last year right at 1,800, noting structure fires at Gibbs Road and U.S. 20, along with the fire at Stokely’s, stood out.

This year started out on a bad note with a triple-fatal in town.

“We’re in the business where terrible things happen,” Soisson said. “The key is early recognition and rapid response.”

The Park Ridge Court house didn’t have working smoke detectors.

The department is at full staff, but is at “extremely low staffing levels for the size of our town,” Soisson said. “We have .81 firefighters per 1,000 compared to cities our size at 1.4. The national average for cities our size is 1.66.

“We take pride in doing a lot with fewer guys. I feel we have a lot of really good talent in this place.”

Soisson pointed out a second shift will be called in when needed, while “we get a lot of help from Milan and Huron River when we need it.”

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