At the Fire Commission meeting on August 12, Commission Chairman Jack Horner noted that the Fire Commission is is not for or against the proposed sidewalk per se. He observed that the Fire Commission is solely concerned about safe travel of fire apparatus on the roadways, and emphasized its serious responsibility for the safety of the fire fighters, other vehicle operators and pedestrians during fire emergency response. He also remarked that sight lines are already limited along portions of Main Street, which serves as a vital emergency route to the southeastern section of town.
Those of us who attended the meeting learned that New Canaan’s fire trucks are about 9 feet 8 inches wide. Assistant Chief Karl said 12 feet is the absolute minimum acceptable lane width for fire apparatus response when the road is straight, and up to 14 feet would be preferred. Since Main Street is sharply curved in some sections – notably the stretch between Down River Road and Woodland Road – the turning radius of the trucks is of concern, he said.
We suggested that sidewalks on the west side, constructed with a hard curb as proposed, would prevent vehicles from getting out of the way when fire apparatus are responding to an emergency. Lexus, Suburban and Landscape truck drivers would simply stop where they were in the road. During morning rush, the problem would be further aggravated by the large volume of commuter and school traffic, which often results in long backups from the Farm Road intersection. We asked the Commission to consider which side of the street would be the preferable location for a sidewalk, from their perspective, if one is installed.
The Fire Department will test its equipment after the road striping is in place and before any actual construction is approved by the Town, they said. Striping (approved by the Police Commission at their July 31 meeting) was completed just before the Labor Day weekend, but the tests have not yet taken place.