Wilton Fire Department debates change to masking policies

Chief Jim Blanchfield said that the department will be discussing COVID-19 prevention policies and whether changes will be made in the coming days.

Chief Jim Blanchfield said that the department will be discussing COVID-19 prevention policies and whether changes will be made in the coming days.

Jeannette Ross / Hearst Connecticut Media

WILTON — As the town begins to look at its masking policies in town buildings to reflect a growing concern in further coronavirus transmission, Wilton Fire Chief Jim Blanchfield said on Thursday that his department is having conversations on whether it will also change its approach.

In the month of July, Blanchfield said no changes had been made to departmentwide policies in regards to COVID-19 protections. The department currently does not require fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask, but are encouraged to, and those members that are not vaccinated are strongly reccomended to wear a mask, but are only required to in certain areas of the firehouse.

“Yes, we are revisiting our policies. There is no official decision yet,” Blanchfield said, but anticipates more tangible guidance to be set within a few days. “Our mask policies currently mimic the towns’ (policies).”

Fire Commission member John Hall spoke anecdotally at a meeting on Wednesday, recalling that upon entering Norwalk City Hall recently, he was surprised that a mandatory mask mandate was enforced while inside the building. Hall said that City Hall provided masks near the front door as he suspected many weren’t aware that the indoor mask mandate had returned.

Blanchfield said the department will continue with its cleaning and disinfecting of various areas with the firehouse each day.

“We added additional cleaning assignments,” Blanchfield said Thursday. “The actual firetrucks are disinfected on a daily basis and our crews do a heightened cleaning on the phones, keyboards and surfaces like that.”

As for policies while in the field, Blanchfield said all firefighters have been consistent with wearing a mask while dealing with the public.

Fire Commission member Terrie Schwartz said on Wednesday the “public appreciates” that “when you enter their home, you are wearing a mask.”

Blanchfield agreed, adding that despite a possible reluctance some might have in asking, “we eliminate that reluctance” by wearing masks on calls, save for very specific situations.

And the department has been plenty busy with calls during the month of July.

According to Blanchfield, the Wilton Fire Department saw nearly 200 alarms throughout the month.

“I know without even looking at my notes, that was the most calls in a month this year,” Blanchfield said.

Year-to-date, the fire chief said that 2021 has seen more emergency calls than 2020. He added that his department sees roughly 2,000 calls per year.