Expensive North Haven Fire Gear to be Replaced After Chemical Contamination

More than 40 North Haven firefighters need new helmets, boots, gloves and protective gear.

The town of North Haven may have to spend up to $800,000 to replace North Haven Fire Department gear that was contaminated when firefighters responded to an industrial fire in November.

“This is the largest emergency purchase we’ve had to make,” First Selectman Michael Freda (R-North Haven) said of his nine years in office.

In the early morning hours of Saturday Nov. 24, a North Haven police officer called in a fire after noticing smoke billowing from a business in the Defco Industrial Park.

“Had we not aggressively put that fire out when we did, it would have turned much worse,” North Haven Fire Chief Paul Januszewski told NBC Connecticut.

But since that fire “everything has been taken out of service” because of exposure to chemicals from the Parker-Hannifin Corporation where the fire originated, Januszewski said.

“We were able to look at a lot of the runoff from the water and visualize inside of the building where the fire was actually taking place and noticed a chemical substance,” Januszewski explained.

More than 40 North Haven firefighters need new helmets, boots, gloves and protective gear.

“It could be as much as $800,000,” Januszewski said.

The most expensive piece of equipment needing to be replaced is the self-contained breathing apparatus. Two air tanks and a breathing mask combined are about $14,000, according to the chief.

“We cannot have our firefighters and our fire department without those air packs and all that gears that needed so we moved pretty quickly on that,” Freda said.

The town is seeking reimbursements through insurance claims, Freda said.

“In crisis situations like this, when we have to tap into our reserves to purchase the equipment we have the cash flow if you will so that we can spend the money,” Freda said of the town’s finances.

Several North Haven taxpayers told NBC Connecticut that this big purchase is an appropriate use of the town’s emergency funds.

Firefighters are sharing gear and the department has borrowed some breathing packs from the Stamford Fire Department until all of the replacement gear arrives by the end of the month, Januszewski said.

“The town has been fantastic in recognizing the need to replace this equipment as fast as possible,” he added.

A majority of the firefighters filled out forms documenting their exposure to the chemicals during the Nov. 24 fire.

NBC Connecticut reached out to Parker-Hannifin in North Haven, but the company had no comment Monday afternoon.

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