A Look Back: The Final Goodbye To Tim Smith

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Jan 282020

(photo submitted by Kirk Kolligian)

Saturday, Jan. 25, the day of Tim Smith’s funeral.

Note: short video clip links are highlighted in red

As cars and first responders’ vehicles filled the parking lot at Holy Infant Church, Mother Nature gave us hope that she’d show a little mercy, until 9:18 a.m. when it began to drizzle. 

Around 9:35 a.m. the rain was so fine that it was almost unnoticeable as Firemen, police officers, EMTs and other first responders from countless cities and towns lined up along the driveway in front of the church with assorted honor guards, and waited.

Three CT Drum and Bagpipe units lined up on the lawn across from the church.

Inside Holy Infant Church, mourners sat quietly and listened. Then the sound of the police motorcycles leading the funeral procession could be heard as they motored up Racebrook Road and turned into the side street under the arch from the ladder trucks displaying a large American Flag. They proceeded through the rear parking lot followed by a police SUV, vehicles from the Fire Marshal’s office, the Muster Truck carrying Tim’s body, and all of the emergency vehicles in the procession.  When the motorcycles reached the front of the church the last of the fire trucks in the procession were entering under the flag. 

The distinctive sound of the bagpipes permeated the air as the pallbearers reached up to remove the casket from the truck, then in perfect unison, all three units began to play, the bass drums keeping time as they carried the casket into the church. Click HERE for video.

Someone from the fire service carried Tim’s turnout gear to the front of the church where it was carefully placed on display. Firefighters escorted Tim’s family members to the front pews and the mass of the Christian Burial began.

A friend read heartfelt tributes from Tim’s girlfriend, Terri and girls, followed by Deputy Fire Marshal Jamie Vincent’s thoughtfully crafted eulogy.

Jamie held his emotions together the best he could as he shared humorous snippets from their experiences over the years, both as friends and professionally. A little thing, like a description of how Tim would greet visitors to his office, by removing his glasses, leaning back in his chair, and so on, brought so many back to happier days.

We could only imagine how unbearably painful it was for Jamie to respond to the accident scene just six days prior, knowing that this was not just any victim, only to have Fire Chief Sean Rowland have all of the first responders line up to make way for him. Jamie thanked Rowland and everyone who was there for this thoughtful gesture.

A short time later, inside the church, came the heartbreaking final alarm, transmitted by the Orange Police Dispatcher. First a tone, then the message, captured at the end of Amy Williams’ video (her father, Art, an Orange firefighter, saved it on his radio).

“All units be advised that car 39, Fire Marshal Tim Smith has responded to his final alarm and is now off the air. Fire Marshal Smith, your service to the citizens of Orange, the Orange Fire Marshal’s office and your loving dedication to your family and friends will not be forgotten. God Speed Tim, we’ll take the watch from here.”

I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say there wasn’t a dry eye in the church, but by then I was outside.

The air seemed a bit more chilly and the sky began to cry, still not a downpour, but it was definitely more uncomfortable. Prior to taking their places on the lawn, the bagpipers exited the building together and made sure everything would be perfect for the final farewell. Moments later first responders came out of the church and began to line up along the driveway. Traffic on Racebrook Road slowed down as it passed the church grounds.

Everyone snapped to attention and saluted, and the bagpipes began their sad song, when the pallbearers emerged from the shelter of the church and awning and slowly walked to the muster truck, some were stoic while others choked back tears before lifting the casket onto the truck. The men and women lining the driveway slowly lowered their arms but remained at attention. Click HERE for video. Strains of Amazing Grace permeated the air and it was time to say goodbye.

After the pallbearers settled into the vehicles, the first responders and bagpipe units snapped to attention again.  The muster truck and its escorts slowly pulled away, leaving those who knew Tim behind with nothing but their memories and hearts filled with love.

“Every Life is noted and is cherished, and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.” — Madeleine L’Engle


Firefighters Hit The Road For A Cold, But Important Job

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Feb 032015

Orange Volunteer Firefighters clear a hydrant

Orange Volunteer Firefighters clear a hydrant

Tonight, after coming home from a full day’s work at their paying jobs, our Orange volunteer firefighters will be out in the freezing cold on Hydrant Detail.

They’ll be shoveling out the fire hydrants in YOUR neighborhoods that are covered in snow and ice.

The firefighters know all too well how long it takes to clear a hydrant, and how precious those extra minutes are when they have to get to a home for a fire emergency.

If YOU have a hydrant near your home, PLEASE shovel it out.

9:30 p.m. Firefighters Still On Scene Of Mulch Fire

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Apr 242014

IMG_2343There was a Fire Weather Watch in effect today, and boy, did the Orange Volunteer Fire Department find out just how spot on that warning was.

At 10:54 a.m. they were called to Edison Road for a mulch fire at the Cuzzocreo Property where there are mountains of wood chips, logs, brush and other flammable natural materials on site.

It seems that the Fire Department responds there at least once every few days, always the same problem.

A few hours later at 3:18 pm the firefighters were returning to the Cuzzocreo property for a mulch fire with heavy smoke that was pouring across I-95. State Police were on the thruway slowing traffic down so there wouldn’t be any accidents.

Fire Marshal Tim Smith said, “Heavy winds (part of the Fire Weather Watch) helped fuel the fire. The Connecticut State DEEP Wildland Crew arrived a few hours later and made their way through the woods to the hotspot where the fire had jumped into a forested area.”

One of these state firefighters was overheard telling his colleagues that he’d done a walk through and that a stream deep in the woods could help keep the fire from spreading too far (into the former Stew Leonard’s property).

Woodbridge, West Shore, Milford, Derby and Bethany all provided mutual aid.

Asst. Fire Chief Vaughan Dumas said firefighters were having a problem getting water to the site, so they called the Woodbridge Volunteer Fire Department for assistance. “They have a tanker truck program and brought three tankers down her to provide us with water,” Dumas said.

Luckily, there were three fire hydrants at the top of the hill near Aurora Products and after the water shuttles were done, firefighters were able to utilize the hydrants.

The Orange fire officers kept in touch with the water company, which boosted the water pressure when requested and when firefighters were leaving the scene the water pressure was brought down to normal.

NOTE: This fire was a major event, which took a lot of manpower and had some residents who visited the site to watch asking why the grinding operation isn’t shut down. That is a question for the Town Plan and Zoning Commission. The business has been sited for violations in the past, but the state DEEP said the company has done everything its been asked to do and they are satisfied that the business is totally in compliance.  After seeing the property, one must wonder if everything there is allowed by our very strict TPZC. The Commission hasn’t discussed it in a while. Perhaps it’s time for another visit.


Fighting Brush Fires Is A Year-Round Job

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Aug 232012

Mark Osinski prepares to take his crew out to the field during a brush fire drill at Turkey Hill School.

The Orange Volunteer Fire Department is on call 24/7, 365 days a year. Often while you are nestled all snug in your bed they are rushing off to help a stranger who’s trapped in a car after an accident on the parkway or responding to a report of an activated fire alarm.

The volunteer firefighters answer so many different types of calls that they must be prepared for anything at any given moment.

On Tuesday night, the bright lights from on top of a fire truck could be seen from neighborhoods in the Turkey Hill School area as about 30 Orange firefighters practiced their skills at fighting brush fires.

The drill was as real as it could get, short of lighting the playing field and woods on fire.

According to Chief Charlie Gagel, the men and women practiced two different techniques.

1. Using Indian Tanks — water filled backpack tanks with hoses and nozzles — that they used to saturate the grass outside of the wooded area.

2. Using 2″ and 3″ fire hoses hooked to the fire engine to  spray down an area with a high volume of water.

Bush Fire Season

Although during summer, with drought-like conditions (when people often have camp fires) the threat of brush fires is high, but “Brush fires occur in all four seasons,” Gagel said. “In the winter, when there is no snow on the ground and there is low humidity, you can get a brush fire. They are predominantly in the summer when it’s hot, there’s been no rain and the “fuel” is all dried up.”

“You never know when you’re going to have a brush fire and you want the firefighters to be prepared and familiar with the equipment,” Gagel said.

While observing the drill, we noticed that some of the younger firefighters were quick to pick up on the proper way to work the Indian tanks. There was a good mix of veteran and rookie firefighters at the drill with the more experienced firefighters passing on their knowledge to the eager to learn 20-somethings in the department.