Wilton officer's family back home 11 months after fire

Eleven months after a suspected attic fire burned his two-story Oxford home to the ground last Sept. 30, Police Capt. Thomas Conlan and his family are back to home sweet home.

The family had been living in a rented house in Oxford while waiting for their home to be rebuilt.

“I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful to the people of Wilton and the community,” Conlan said in his office at headquarters, after a busy weekend settling into the rebuilt home. He said there are still boxes of donated clothing and other items in the garage to go through.

The family arrived there two weeks ago. Little details remain, like bringing home the family dog, that has been staying with a friend.

He said he appreciated the outpouring of goodwill and donations from well-wishers, many of them from Wilton, who donated through the fund-raising page on the crowdsourcing site YouCaring, which has since become part of GoFundMe.

No one was injured in the fire that occurred in the early hours of a Saturday morning, as Conlan’s wife Ashley, a teacher, and the Conlans’ children Kaitlyn (then 8), Bryn (then 6), and Jake (then 3), and a niece escaped the fire in their pajamas. They had heard the smoke alarm go off. Capt. Conlan, who had been visiting with friends nearby, rushed home.

“We think the fire started in the attic vent,” Conlan said. “It began either in the attic or above the second floor.”

He reflected on the family’s return.

“We wanted to get settled in before school started again for the kids,” Conlan said. He said he could not at first believe how long it would take to rebuild the home. “When I was told it would take about a year I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

Now, everything is new. There is an attached garage, in place of the separate one that used to be there. There is a mudroom for the kids to take off their boots that wasn’t there before.

Other than that, everything is as the family remembers it.

“My oldest daughter did not want to see the house again until it was completely finished,” he said.

He said his wife Ashley is glad for the new kitchen, complete with new cabinets and a double oven.

Conlan, a native of Bridgeport and one of nine children of Irish farm country immigrants, became an officer with the Wilton Police Department in 2000 and rose to the rank of sergeant in 2008. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2013, and captain in October 2015.

Conlan earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration from the University of New Haven and is pursuing a master’s degree at the same institution.

He is a member of the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force and is the department liaison to the Domestic Violence Crisis Center in Norwalk. According to a colleague, “he has been a driving force in the department in combating domestic violence.”