Town hails ‘heroic’ response to Old Greenwich fire

Three Old Greenwich homes and a carriage house were left completely destroyed by a fire Monday night on Binney Lane.

According to reports, the fire, which took place in an area that the town had called for residents to evacuated from due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, originated at 45 Binney Lane. It then spread to two other homes and the carriage house, leaving all four structures in states of total loss. The powerful winds of Hurricane Sandy ended up hindering response from the Greenwich Fire Department because of falling trees and downed wires limiting access to the scene, as well as the winds causing the fire to spread. Firefighters cited having to avoid falling tree limbs while battling the blaze.

But the destruction could have ended up much worse than it was and on Tuesday, Greenwich Fire Chief Peter Siecienski credited the response of the department from keeping more homes from being destroyed.

“I told our firefighters at the beginning of this that they were heroes, but not superheroes,” Chief Siecienski said. “I might have to redefine that. They went back in with crews to try and keep the fire from spreading from the third structure and by making that stop at that point they probably stopped the fire from cutting a swath through Old Greenwich and many residences. In my 40 years of experience, this was certainly the most heroic effort I’ve seen to put out fires. I’ve watched a lot of video clips of a lot of fires nationwide and I haven’t seen anything better yet.”

Chief Siecienski described the fire by telling media to “visualize a blowtorch coming out of the opposite side of the Long Island Sound where the winds blew straight through the house with 40 to 50-foot walls of flame going across the road into the next building.”

Storm conditions with wind and water from the sound were so extreme that the fire department had to withdraw and while doing so, Chief Siecienski said they continued fighting the fire while also aiding more than a dozen residents who were still in their homes despite the order to evacuate.

In a tour of the area on Tuesday, Gov. Dannel Malloy also highly praised the work of the Greenwich Fire Department, calling their response excellent.

“I give them a lot of credit for what they were able to accomplish here,” Mr. Malloy said.

First Selectman Peter Tesei joined Mr. Malloy and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4), a Cos Cob resident, on the tour of the damage and had been at the scene on Monday night. He called the firefighters’ response “heroic.”

“They went through some very challenging forces and came through it without any resident loss of life,” Mr. Tesei said. “We are thankful for that and we impress upon people that when we give a mandatory evacuation order, do it. It’s not really discretionary. What takes place is you put people in the fire services and the police and EMS in harm’s way if they have to come get you because you did not heed a mandatory evacuation.”

No residents were hurt in the fire. Chief Siecienski said he believed one firefighter was hurt but that it was considered a minor injury.

“Miraculously there were no major injuries,” Chief Siecienski said. “Not only did the firefighters arrive on the scene which was the worst possible place for a fire to start because the structure was the one closest to Long Island Sound, but they did it at the time when the winds were the worst. There were probably gusts of close to 70 to 80 miles per hour.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation and there were no indications yet on Tuesday morning what might have started the blaze.

 

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