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"Open Burning" Starts Barn Fire Behind 2989 Whitney Avenue
April 1, 1957
A 19th-century barn located on the property adjacent to the Mt. Carmel fire station was damaged by a fire that originated in a nearby trach barrel. Open burning of trash, which was legal during daylight hours until it was banned in 1969, caused many such fires.
New Haven Register, April 2, 1957 (Brainard Collection) / Photo courtesy of Paul Wetmore, Sr.
1934 Aerial view of barn (CT State Library Digital Collection)
Fires rarely occur this close to a fire station, but this one did in Mount Carmel on April Fools Day 1957. A dozen years later, a structure fire occurred right behind Station 6 on a quiet Sunday afternoon. The H&D Paper Products fire at 110 Webb Street was a tad larger than this barn fire.
The trip for Engine 5 was undoubtedly its shortest to that date. The newspaper reported that the firemen simply "backed their truck out of the firehouse." That would have been quite possible today, but if anyone had tried to back Engine 5 out of the Mount Carmel firehouse in 1957, the driver would be filling out accident reports to this very day.
Monday April 1, 1963, The New Haven Register (Brainard Collection)
March 31, 1963
Barn Fire on Manila Avenue
Springtime open burning was the meaning of the capitalized lead-in to this photo blurb from fifty-four years ago. Sparks from burning trash apparently got this Manila Avenue barn going, which kept Hamden firefighters quite busy.
Open burning kept Hamden firefighters VERY busy every spring before the environmentally unhealthful custom was banned with Spring 1969. Every April, it was not unusual for a given fire company, particularly in the north end, to respond to as many as a dozen brush fires in one weekend.
While there is no question that open burning in spring and fall could pose long-term health problems, like secondhand cigarette smoke, the aroma of burning leaves between Halloween and Thanksgiving somehow added to the seasonal spirit. In addition to the health concerns, well-meaning homeowners "burning off" their dead grass in the spring, or their dead leaves in the fall, often resulted in small fires becoming large blazes, extending well beyond their intended targets.
Register photo by John Mongillo, Jr. (HFRA Archives) - CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE IT
A fire in the Zukel Realty building at 3383 Whitney Avenue capped off a very busy day for the HFD on Wednesday, April 5, 1967. A lighter fluid mishap was the cause of a fire that heavily damaged the combination apartment and realty office in Mount Carmel. In the news photo above, Chief V. Paul Leddy is pictured on the lower roof with Firefighter Robert "Ace" Callahan. On the aerial ladder is Firefighter Art Heriot. Lieut. Bill Hines and several Co. 5 volunteers are at the front door.
New Haven Register, Thursday, April 6, 1967
Register photo by John Mongillo, Jr. (HFRA Archives)
The service station referred to in the news article was where Chuckie's is today. The damage was repaired, but the building was eventually razed thirty years later to make way for the Whitney Woods Manor Condominiums (below).
3383 Whitney Avenue - Hamden Historical Society photo taken July 2016
Unidentified bystander's cellphone photo courtesy of the Office of the Fire Chief
March 30 - At 6:34 last evening, Central Communications received multiple 911 calls reporting smoke and flames showing from the multiple dwelling wood frame building at 154 Towne House Road, off Mix Avenue. After the initial dispatch, responding companies were informed residents may be trapped.
Engine 3, arriving first at 6:38, reported a working fire with flames showing from the gable vents in the attic. Incident Commander, Batt. Chief Gary Couture in Car 3, called for an additional alarm and committed crews to suppression and interior searches of each of the apartments in the building. All searches were negative.
Fire spread was contained to the second-floor and the common attic spaces above. Sections of the second floor ceiling became unstable as firefighters worked to extinguish hidden fires during overhaul, preventing the spread of fire to the western most portion of the building. Fortunately, no firefighter injuries were reported.
Deputy Fire Marshal Tim Lunn and Fire Inspector Ralph DiFonzo have confined the seat of the fire to Unit 154, however the origin and cause are still under investigation. No residents reported injury.
A total of six units were directly affected by fire spread, smoke damage and the suppression effort. First floor units sustained water damage.
Hamden's Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was called to the scene for support and to assist displaced residents. CERT members coordinated with the American Red Cross to determine which residents would require emergency housing. AMR assisted with the medical evaluations of residents and firefighters.
A representative of the Hamden Building Department deemed one section of the 35-year old structure to be uninhabitable and structurally unsound. Disconnected utilities were isolated to this area, allowing residents at the far end of the building to remain in their homes.
The photo was taken on a bystander's cellphone.
(The website thanks the Fire Chief's Office and Dep. Chief Gary Merwede for providing the article and photo.)