We were happy to see the town council extend their condolences to Tops Market during the March 13 council meeting and offer support for the reconstruction of the landmark business. Like council chair Chris Palmieri said, “I think our greatest strength as a community is how we come together in times of need.”
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last fire in the community. Since the March 3 fire that consumed the local supermarket, local firefighters have fought to extinguish a car fire at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-in on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike, and on March 16 two firefighters suffered minor injuries at a house fire on Crissey Lane. The two residents escaped safely, but their family cat perished in the fire.
Each one of these recent fires was a grim reminder that public safety is a real issue, and we are glad that Southington’s government officials take it so seriously.
Palmieri shared that firefighters were helped immensely by neighboring towns. On the scene, a small army of Southington’s volunteers and career firefighters fought the blaze with firefighters from Meriden and Cheshire, along with Farmington’s canteen unit, and Hartford County’s fire coordinator Steve Hess. At the same time, coverage at Southington’s stations was manned by personnel from Plainville and Cheshire.
It didn’t stop there, the police department, building department, the Plainville-Southington Health District, and AMR ambulance were all contributing to the efforts on the ground. Even the water department joined in, increasing the water pressure to ensure that 6,000 gallons of water each minute was available to battle the blaze.
Rev. Victoria Triano also added that local businesses have stepped in, including McDonald’s, Arby’s, and Stop & Shop, offering jobs to displaced Tops employees.
Southington Fire Chief Richard Butler called the Tops Market fire a “once in a career” fire. We’d also add that the fire chief, members of the Town Council and Board of Finance, and the Town Manager have also played a crucial role in the town’s efforts during these crises. And we want to recognize their efforts, too.
It’s hard to believe that it was seven months ago that Chief Butler joined the fire department. In the months leading up to his start, the town had been battling through financial issues with overtime, internal grievances between career and volunteer firefighters, and infrastructure needs within the department. In the middle of this budget cycle, the Tops fire and the two ensuing blazes, have shown that controlling costs doesn’t mean compromising services.
Spiraling costs have been contained by a group of public servants that remained accountable to the taxpayers. In part because of the reduction in overtime and expenses, Town Manager Mark Sciota was able to include two new firefighters and one new fire truck in this year’s budget proposal. The recent string of fires has driven home the point that the town needs to invest in its services and workers, and Sciota has proven that this can be done without asking for a huge increase in his budget instead of just throwing money at a problem with no accountability.
This is responsible government at its best. Palmieri is right. The greatest strength as a community is how we come together in times of need. Good work.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.