When Steven Waugh moved to Easton with his growing family 13 years ago, he knew he wanted to contribute to his new community, and it didn’t take him long to get involved.
He took his family to the Fireman’s Carnival, which has been the major fund-raiser for the Easton Fire Department for the past 77 years. It’s also a major community attraction that binds together generations of Eastonites every summer.
“We went to the carnival, and I met the guys, who were friendly, so I decided to join,” Mr. Waugh said.
The former Old Lyme resident had not been a firefighter before, but found it rewarding right from the start and soon began moving up in the ranks.
This month he was named fire chief, succeeding outgoing Chief Jim Girardi. It’s a role Mr. Waugh said he feels honored to hold. His four years as assistant chief prepared him for the job, he said. In addition to Mr. Girardi, Mr. Waugh worked under the leadership of former chiefs Gerry Mulligan, Martin Ohradan and Doug Von Holtz.
“I can’t say enough about the quality of the guys’ ability to handle anything that comes their way,” he said of the eight paid firefighters who man the department 24/7, and the volunteers, of which there are currently 15.
First Selectman Tom Herrmann said, “I congratulate Steve and applaud his willingness to serve the community. He has proven himself to be a committed and hard-working member of the Easton Fire Department. I’m looking forward to working with him.”
New chief’s goals
Mr. Waugh said his goals include the enactment of a tax abatement ordinance for the surviving spouses of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty. The Board of Selectmen approved the proposed ordinance, which will go to a town meeting for taxpayer approval.
He also wants to streamline dispatcher protocols, fulfill the FCC mandate for narrow banding of emergency radio communications, oversee the return of Engine 4, which is out of commission for repairs, and preserve the Fireman’s Carnival tradition.
Carnival proceeds cover fire station building maintenance, he said. The department owns the building and rents out the downstairs to the town for $40,000. The town pays for the fire trucks, salaries and equipment.
The Easton Fire Department, which was established in 1921, responds to an average of 350 to 450 calls per year throughout Easton’s 26.6-square-mile land mass, much of which is watershed. Fire calls vary from structure fires to car accidents, felled trees, fire alarms, cooking fires, chemical spills, and public service calls.
Because of the abundance and fragility of watershed land, Easton firefighters pay particular attention to hazardous waste calls and act quickly to prevent chemicals from getting into storm drains and reservoirs that serve the region, he said.
The department normally has four fire engines, although five are currently housed in the garage, one of which is for sale. The department acquired a new, fully equipped Pierce Arrow XT truck last summer for $610,000, payable over 30 years. Manufactured to the department’s specifications, “it’s the best and built to last,” Mr. Waugh said.
Engine 4 is out for repairs, having been damaged by falling trees during Superstorm Sandy during the incident in which volunteer firefighter Lt. Russell Neary was tragically killed in the line of duty.
The Easton Fire Department provides and receives mutual aid from fire departments throughout the region and is grateful for the support it received during Sandy, Mr. Waugh said. The Stepney Fire Department loaned Easton a replacement truck for Engine 4 for the time being.
“Monroe is a good neighbor to Easton as it’s been a good neighbor to Newtown,” Mr. Waugh said. After the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which remains a crime scene, Monroe has allowed the school community to use its Chalk Hill Middle School, which had been empty.
Mr. Waugh, whose day job is a commodities trader at Phibro Inc. in Westport, and his wife, Ellen, a preschool teacher at the Easton Community Center, have two children, Katherine, 15, and Michael, 13. The fact that both parents work close to home enables them to volunteer time to the community, Mr. Waugh said.
In addition to being a volunteer firefighter, he is also a Little League coach.
“We appreciate the support of the town and are glad to provide the service,” Mr. Waugh said. “One of the great things about the town is we work well with the Police Department and EMS.”
He went on to say, “We’re your neighbors, we’re your friends. No one should be hesitant to call if they have a problem. We’re here to help. When we leave, we want people to be having a better day and the peace of mind that their problem has been solved.”