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Helping to cut the ribbon on Co. 9's new home Jan. 6 are (front, l-r) Branford Fire Chief Tom Mahoney, Co. 9 Captain Mike Mullen, Branford Fire Commission chairman Robert Massey Jr. and Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove. Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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On Monday, Jan. 6, Branford Fire Department (BFD) leaders and town and state officials were joined by a big crowd of supporters for the ribbon-cutting opening Branford's brand-new Indian Neck-Pine Orchard Fire Co. 9 facility at 6 Linden Ave.
The celebration took place just one month after the volunteer company gathered, on Dec. 9, to resume operations at the new building, which opened for service after eight months of construction. During construction, Co. 9 and it's apparatus (Engine 9 and Tac-6, a fire-response truck) was relocated to operate from a nearby, secure area at Branford's Water Pollution Control Facility, 75 Block Island Road in Indian Neck.
On Jan. 6, Robert Massey Jr., chairman of the Branford Fire Commission, thanked town and state officials for supporting the project. Massey also thanked the members of the special building committee for their work to bring about the new facility. Massey served on the committee together with BFD Chief Thomas Mahoney, Captain Michael Mullen, Phil DeLise, Town Engineer John Hoefferle and BFD Assistant Chief Shaun Heffernan, who also served as the emcee/master of ceremonies on Jan. 6.
Massey noted Co. 9 was the first stop in a firefighting career for many of Branford's bravest over its decades of service, including Heffernan, past Fire Chief Peter Mullen, retired Fire Chief Jack Ahern, retired Deputy Chief William Hackett and current Deputy Chief Michael Stackpole. Still others who began as Co. 9 volunteers went on to serve with fire companies across the state and beyond, said Massey.
"That says a lot about this fire company," said Massey.
Massey also thanked the assembled members of Co. 9 for their patience; and their work to respond from a temporary site at the town's sewer treatment plant. He also told them to "...do us proud of your new station. Take good care of her, as I know you all will."
The $1.675 million Co. 9 firehouse project, of which $500,000 in costs will be defrayed by a Small Town Economic Assistance grant, replaces an aging, two-story firehouse and single garage bay constructed from a converted 1911 home. The new two-story, two-bay building, designed by Silver Petrucelli + Associates, Inc. (Hamden), includes just under 5,000 square feet of operating space and complies with federal standards for storm resiliency.
Branford First Selectman Jamie Cosgrove, now serving his fourth consecutive term, said prior years of discussion on the need for a new firehouse for Co. 9 were top of mind for him and his four-term running mate, selectman Joe Higgins (NYFD, retired) before they even began their first term in office together. Higgins was also present at the ribbon cutting event on Jan. 6.
"Before [first] taking office, Joe Higgins and I and some members of the RTM came down and visited with Co. 9, and toured the old station and talked about the need. And when we left that night, Joe said to me, 'You know, we've got to get that done,'" Cosgrove recalled.
Noting Branford has been "... fortunate enough to do a number of projects during the last few years," Cosgrove said all of the projects, including the new firehouse, involved many people working toward a common goal over many years. He thanked those involved from the start with Co. 9's firehouse project.
"What you see tonight is just the tip of the iceberg. What you don't see was the number of hours and years of dedication that the members put into this [to] see this project move forward," said Cosgrove.
Cosgrove said it was important to bring in a new facility to provide needed services while also fitting it into the community where it's located.
"A number of people in the neighborhood, and who live in this area, have commented and remarked on how great it is to see this building completed, but also that it fits with the neighborhood," said Cosgrove. "I think that's something that the building committee, the company, the commission and my administration was always very supportive of."
He also thanked all of the town's combined professional and volunteer firefighters for their service to Branford.
"Thank you for what you do day in and day out," Cosgrove, said, telling the members of Co. 9., "...I hope you understand the town is here to support you. This is just a small token of the gratitude and support that we have for the company."
Co. 9 Captain Mike Mullen, who had the honor of returning Engine 9 to the new firehouse for the first time on Dec. 9, 2019, recalled that moment, saying, "...we made a little bit of noise coming down," to laughs from the crowd.
Mullen thanked all involved in bringing about the project, as well as the team from the town's Water Pollution Control Authority for "putting up with us" during the construction period.
"It was tough time, the eight months we were out of here. We were homeless firefighters," said Mullen. "But I think the company held together great, and everybody did a great job and had great dedication. It wasn't easy, but we did it, guys."
Mullen also invited those in attendance to return to the firehouse in the spring, when Co. 9 will officially dedicate the new firehouse to his father, former Chief Peter Mullen. Co. 9 will hold an open house (date to be announced) and unveil a plaque at the building to honor the late Mullen.
Branford Fire Chief Tom Mahoney said the night's remarkable crowd on Jan. 6 was a testament to their support of Co. 9 and BFD. Noting the movement to bring about a new firehouse for Co. 9 got its start with the work of his predecessor, Chief Ahern, together with the work of Assistant Chief Heffernan, Mahoney said "...this has been a long time coming."
"Why is this building here? It supports our mission; and the members are the ones that make that mission happen," said Mahoney, adding, "Welcome home, Company 9. This is your new firehouse. Your selfless sacrifice to the community, as all volunteer members give to this community, was recognized; and this station is a result of that."
Mahoney also thanked Mike Mullen, who has captained Co. 9 for over 30 years, for his advice and input helping to make the project a success. In addition, all of the members of Co. 9 gave their skill and service to the project in one way or another, Mahoney noted.
"We really worked to keep this project under budget and keep in mind the cost to the community," said Mahoney. "$1.6 million is a lot of money [but] even within that money, there were a lot of limitations; [and] to make up for those limitations the members themselves did a lot of the minor details."
The all-hands-on-deck effort ranged from installing some tech, including the firehouse's IT, security cameras and monitors, to installing the new flagpole, mailbox and digging posts for exterior signage.
"There was a lot of extra work these members gave to give back to the community, and as a way to keep costs down for this station," said Mahoney, who also thanked the Branford's local and state elected and appointed officials, and the community for supporting the project.
Mahoney said Branford Finance Director Jim Finch also deserves thanks for guiding the financing of the project, which was paid for without the need for borrowing (bonding).
"All of these projects, he finds a way to make the money work for the community; and to keep everything as low-cost as possible," said Mahoney. "He's been a phenomenal help to the Town of Branford and certainly the fire department; [as has] his team at the Finance Department."
Co. 9's on-call volunteers respond to emergencies in Indian Neck, Pine Orchard and Pawson Park and is one of five volunteer companies in town, all of which operate under BFD. The town's professional firefighters (Local 2533) and Branford's major firefighting/EMT apparatus respond from Branford Fire Headquarters, 45 North Main St.
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