Safety In The New Year

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General



Below is an article from our latest company newsletter “Winter, Christmas, and Safety Volume 1 Issue 2”

If you’re like many Americans, you’re starting off the New Year with a resolution to improve your health. As you work towards your resolution, consider one additional step to maintain your health: fire prevention. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) is urging everyone to make 2016 a healthy and fire-safe year.

Most people say they feel safest at home. But data shows 83% of all fire deaths in the U.S. happen in homes. Follow these tips to ring in fire safety this New Year:

1. Make sure your home is protected by working smoke alarms. Half of all home fire deaths happen at night, when people are sleeping.

2.Test your smoke alarms once a month, and replace your smoke alarms when they’re 10 years old. Cooking is the main cause of home fires and home fire injuries. Make safety your first ingredient; stay in the kitchen when you are cooking at high temperatures. Fires start when the heat gets too high. If you see any smoke or grease starts to boil, turn the burner off.

3. If you have children living in your home or visiting look for fire and burn dangers from their point of view. Never leave lighters or matches where children can reach them.

While these safety tips will help you to be safe it is our wish that each and every one of our residents has a safe and healthy New Year. From our family to yours have a Happy New Year from the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company!

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A NMVFC Christmas

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General


Below is an article from our latest company newsletter “Winter, Christmas, and Safety Volume 1 Issue 2”

On Sunday, December 20th, a beautiful sunny day was made even more pleasant when my family was alerted by a siren coming down our driveway on Country Way. Having the North Madison FD arrive with Santa and his Elf, made our holiday so much more fun. As a new grandmother of an 11 month old, my grandson TJ, great nephews Brady and Lincoln were awestruck by the big red fire truck. Brady, being the oldest at age 2 1/2 was so excited when Santa came out of the fire truck and handed him a gift. Brady knew his great grandpa Jack, a former NY City Fireman, who recently passed away in July and loves fire trucks. TJ and Lincoln, although young, loved their gifts. What a great thing to do for the community. I am so looking forward to next year already when TJ will really know what is going on. Thank you for doing something so special.

Submitted by Donna Farrell

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History Of Our Great Organization

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

Website Our HistoryBelow is an article from our latest company newsletter “Winter, Christmas, and Safety Volume 1 Issue 2”

Because the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company has been in operation for 90 years it is useful to reflect back on the history of the organization and the innovation and efforts made to keep the community of North Madison safe. In the previous issue of our newsletter, we noted that the Company was founded in 1925. The Company was established under the leadership of Rudy Schraner, who served as Chief from 1928 through 1966, and Eugene Keyarts. These two individuals were responsible for organizing a meeting of North Madison citizens to initiate a volunteer fire company. The meeting was in response to the loss of a barn on Summer Hill Road and the experience of Schraner and Keyarts who witnessed a volunteer fire company in action in the nearby community of Essex. The first meeting of the Company was held in the North Madison Congregational Church.

Although the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company was subsequently incorporated through a registered charter in the State of Connecticut, the company began with no training, equipment, or support. Through the work of its volunteer staff the Company was able to acquire 20 soda acid fire extinguishers which were distributed among firefighters. Soon after, the Company was able to purchase a used Model-T halfton chemical truck. The truck provided firefighters with access to a 100 gallon water tank which was located directly behind the driver’s seat. Although the Model-T made an excellent addition to the Company, it had no starter, making it practically impossible to rapidly access the vehicle in case of an emergency. To overcome this challenge, volunteers developed a unique starting system in which the truck was placed on a ramp. When an emergency call was reported, the truck could be started by rolling the vehicle down the ramp and popping the clutch.

This innovation was not the only pioneering effort made by the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company to support its operations. To raise money, volunteers held regular chicken dinners and ice cream socials, charging residents $0.25 admission. The events were held in the church basement and provided the Company with an opportunity to raise money while connecting with community members to emphasize the importance and role of safety as an integral part of daily life. In addition, barns owned by the church were used by the Company for training. Later, the Company repurposed an abandoned school at the corner of Opening Hill and Durham Road to establish the community’s first firehouse.

Throughout its history the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company has utilized innovative strategies and methods to build safety as a foundational component of community well being. While the Company did experience a humble beginning it has continued to grow and to maintain a commitment to the improvement of the community. As we reflect back on the history of the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company it is evident that we have come a long way. It is exciting to imagine where we will be in another 90 years.

Submitted by Past Chief, Eric Alletzhauser

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Status Update: Fund Drive

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

Below is an article from our latest company newsletter “Winter, Christmas, and Safety Volume 1 Issue 2”

In recent months, information was mailed to each residence in the community asking for financial support for operations at the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company. Of the 3,300 households in the community, 360 have stepped up to show their support for building a safe community. For those that have donated, we cannot thank you enough for your contributions. Although the efforts made by current donors are sincerely appreciated, we need the help of more households to ensure that the Fire Company continues to fortify the safety and well-being of the community. The North Madison Volunteer Fire Company is comprised solely of volunteers who do not receive compensation for their service. As such, every donation made to the department is directly reinvested in the community through equipment, training, and events to promote safety. If each household in the community contributed $50 we could reach full funding for the fiscal year. For those that can contribute please consider making the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company your organization of choice this year. Donations can be sent in by mail or electronically via NMVFC Donate Now.


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An Overlooked Danger: Chimney Fires

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

Below is an article from our latest company newsletter “Winter, Christmas, and Safety Volume 1 Issue 2”

As the cold of the winter months begins to bear down, many of us will take comfort in the warmth of a wood stove or fireplace. These devices, in one form or another, have been around since the 12th century. Fireplaces and stoves are typically accompanied by a chimney to remove the byproducts of combustion. This system of heating is efficient; however it can also be dangerous if efforts are not made to properly clean and inspect a chimney each year. Creosote and other debris which can build up in the chimney over time can present a dangerous situation which can result in fire, damage to the home, and in the worst case scenario, injury or loss of life.

Most chimney fires are caused by creosote. This compound forms when the residue from combustion travels up the chimney and attaches to the walls of the structure. Chimneys are often much cooler than the wood stove or fire place, allowing for quick cooling and condensation. Over time, creosote particles can line the chimney, creating a significant fire hazard. Creosote Build-up in a Chimney Preventing chimney fires can be accomplished through regular inspections of the structure by a certified professional. In addition, there are several steps that you can take to help prevent the buildup of creosote in the first place. For example: Start fires with dry kindling or newspaper. Gasoline or kerosene should never be used. Do not burn wrapping paper, cardboard boxes, or Christmas trees. When possible, burn large logs rather than small branches.

Have the chimney inspected annually and have any creosote removed from the chimney walls to ensure safety. When it comes to chimney safety it is important to remember that clean chimneys do not catch on fire. Preventing creosote and having your chimney cleaned on a regular basis will provide protection from this often overlooked danger.


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Safe Winter Driving Tips

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General


Below is an article from our latest company newsletter “Winter, Christmas, and Safety Volume 1 Issue 2”

Winter can be one of the most beautiful times of the year. Unfortunately, it can also be one of the most dangerous. Snow, ice, and wind can impact driving, vehicle performance, and visibility making it difficult for even the most skilled drivers to remain safe while on the road. Because most of us must operate a vehicle even in inclement weather, it is helpful to consider some basic tips to ensure safety. Safe winter driving can be accomplished through the three P’s: Preparation, Protection, and Prevention. Below are some actions that you can take to safely navigate during wintry conditions.

Preparation: Prepare for winter driving by ensuring that your vehicle is capable of withstanding weather conditions

1. Check your battery, tire tread, and windshield wipers.

2. Check antifreeze levels and regularly refill the no-freeze fluid in the windshield washer reservoir.

3. Keep a flashlight, jumper cables, shovel, ice scraper, flares, and blankets in your care at all times.

4. Plan your route based on the weather conditions. Make sure others know your arrival time.

5. Practice winter driving in parking lots. Learn how to stop on ice and how to steer into a skid.

Protection: Once you are in the car, there are several steps that you can take to protect yourself and loved ones before your journey begins.

1. Use your safety belts and ensure that children are properly secured in car seats.

2. Ensure that children under the age of 12 ride in the back seat.

3. Never place a rear facing infant in front of an air bag.

Prevention: Prevention involves some basic precautions that you can take while on the road.

1. During inclement weather, slow down and increase your distance from the cars in front of you.

2. Remain alert; do not drive while fatigued.

3. Stop every three hours and, when possible, rotate drivers.

4. Do not drink and drive; if you plan to drink identify a designated driver.

Even though this time of year can be challenging on the roads the three P’s can help you arrive safe even in the most dangerous conditions.

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Company Drill: Smoke and Fire Flow Patterns

by DC Gabe Balsamo in Training

North Madison Fire spent the evening training on the topics of fire behavior.  After a powerpoint and classroom discussion, firefighters went outside to view a live fire demonstration of the topics covered.  Firefighters learned valuable lessons while being able to watch smoke and fire flow patterns and how ventilation techniques affect how a fire can progress through a structure.

The “Doll House” prop used in the demonstration was designed by local published fire instructor PJ Norwood, Deputy Chief, East Haven Fire Department . For more info visit Chief Norwoods facebook page “Stop Believing Start Knowing”



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Madison’s Annual Christmas Parade, Sunday, December 6th

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

Christmas Lighting

Photo by Judith L. Barbosa/The Source

“Madison’s Annual Christmas Parade, Santa visits and Tree Lighting will take place on Sunday, December 6th.  The parade will begin at 2pm and proceed from the former railroad station parking lot on Bradley Road, continue down Wall Street, turn onto the Boston Post Road and end at the Cafe Allegre.  Santa will then be available for children’s visits from 2:15 to 4:30pm on the porch of the Cafe Allegre.  Neighborhood groups, scouts, sports teams and businesses are encouraged to march in the parade to help usher Santa into town.  Participants may start at the beginning of the parade route or join in the fun along the way, and pets are welcome, too!  Hayrides, letters to Santa and bake sale for Mad about Madeline at RJ Julia’s, DHHS Girls Hockey team wrapping presents at Tony’s barber shop,, gingerbread house displays, face painting, cookie decorating, great shopping, free cocoa, cider & cookies by GSB, Coldwell Banker and Morgan Stanley and live music are on order for the day, and it’ll be a won at the wonderful family-friendly way to usher in the Holidays in town.

Coordinated by the Madison Chamber of Commerce, the parade and activities are generously sponsored by the following local businesses:  Santa (Major) Sponsors:  MDJ Home Improvement, The Walz Team at Morgan Stanley, and Connecticut Water.  The Star Sponsors this year areThe Source Newspaper, Watrous Nursing Center and Bridgepoint Mortgage.  Angel Sponsors include:  Kearney Insurance, Child & Adult Orthodontics, and Guilford Savings Bank.

After Santa’s visits, head down to the Green for the lighting of the town Christmas Tree, sponsored by Madison Beach & Recreation.   Caroling and cocoa will accompany the tree lighting, and the Madison ABC Concert will take place at the Fist Congregational Church on the Green after the tree lighting at 5:30.”

For more information, please contact the Madison Chamber of Commerce: 203.245.7394 or


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Firefighter Amanda Bernier Honored at Salute to Connecticut’s Bravest

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General


Amanda Bernier, center, received the 2015 Connecticut District Exchange Club’s Salute

to Connecticut’s Bravest award. The North Madison Volunteer Fire Company member

was joined by (from left) Denise Bernier, Chris Bernier, Tim Herget, and Jeff Pumm

at the Oct. 15 ceremony.


Amanda Bernier, the Madison firefighter battling ALS while raising her newborn daughter with husband and fellow firefighter Chris Bernier, was one of this year’s honorees at the Connecticut District Exchange Club’s Salute to Connecticut’s Bravest, an award that recognizes outstanding firefighters from cities and towns throughout the state. The event, held on Oct. 15 at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville, honored a woman whose continuing fight has inspired so many in the local community and beyond.

Raised in a family of firefighters, Amanda joined the Lancaster, New York Volunteer Fire Department as an explorer when she was in high school and eventually became a senior member. In 2006 she joined the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company, and in 2011 she began work as an emergency medical services responder with Madison Ambulance.

Shortly after becoming pregnant in 2014, 30-year-old Amanda was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the deterioration of motor neurons, loss of voluntary muscle movements, and eventually death. Patients lose the ability to move their limbs and to talk, swallow, and breathe. Amanda’s ALS was a particularly aggressive form that had taken her mother’s and grandmother’s lives.

Although she did not know whether she would survive her pregnancy long enough to meet her baby face to face, Amanda and her husband welcomed daughter Arabella Grace on Nov. 4, 2014, and will soon be celebrating her first birthday.

Since Arabella’s birth, Amanda has earned national recognition for her efforts in raising ALS awareness. This year, despite losing her ability to both move any part of her body except for her eyes and breathe without a ventilator, she has written honestly and poignantly—via an eye-tracker—about her experiences as an ALS patient. Thousands have read and been inspired by her stories, shared widely on Facebook.

Local media outlets have featured stories about her work on behalf of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge., and a host of additional online publications picked up her inspiring narrative about overcoming the challenges of breast-feeding Arabella after it went viral.

 As a firefighter and EMT, Amanda learned firsthand the skills and mindset required to deal with the unpredictable, dangerous, and unknown.

“There are no routine calls,” she says.

She recalled a life-alert activation call, for instance. Normally such a call is a false alarm, nothing really, as people often set it off without knowing. Amanda and her partner, however, arrived on scene to hear an elderly man calling from the roof, where he’d fallen face-down after slipping on the moss in an attempt to clean his gutters.

“My wife can’t find out about this!” he told her repeatedly.

Amanda and her partner climbed on the roof and helped him back inside through his bedroom window.

 Then there was the Christmas-time call, an accident on Route 80. The car had been going too fast around a curve, veered into the woods, and bounced back into the road. The father on the passenger side was dead. His semi-conscious son, suffering from double-femur fractured legs and a severe head injury, was pinned inside. Amanda crawled inside the vehicle, over his father, to stabilize the son’s head and give him oxygen. The son lived.

Later that same night, Amanda responded to another call that took her past the evening’s earlier accident scene. She steered around the spot into the opposite lane, unable to drive over the place where the father had just died.

“That was my worst call,” she says.

Determined to hold her own as a female firefighter, Amanda constantly trained and conditioned.

“The fire does not care if you are male or female,” she says.

Exercising was important to her job performance as a firefighter. On a personal level, she also exercised in case she had inherited that ALS gene that had taken her mother and grandmother. Maybe she could turn it off or delay its expression by staying fit and healthy.

Within months after running road races, however, she was unable to climb into a fire truck on her own. She turned around to her husband, behind her as she climbed the steps.

“My legs,” she told him.

Though she didn’t yet know it, gene mutation SOD1 had begun its course. That familial ALS known to her ancestors since the 1700s as the “Underwood Disease” had awakened in Amanda, whose family name is Underwood.

Amanda continues her work on behalf of ALS while writing letters and preparing gifts for Arabella to read on her birthdays, her wedding day, and other milestone occasions.

And she continues as a first responder, listening to radio communications and answering calls in the only way she can: prayer. Nevertheless, she adds, “If it’s your time it’s your time.”

Whether a routine lift-assist or the worst of calls, she is present and helping, still, at the scene.



Article and photo by Mary Elliott

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Open House 2015

by DC Gabe Balsamo in Company Events

DSC_6086On behalf of the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company, we would like to thank all the neighbors and friends who attended our open house.  The weather was perfect and the turnout was excellent. The day was filled with many interesting activities for both adults and children including the midnight alarm.  Children were able to experience a mock alarm, dress in turnout gear and race to the truck.  The gear might have been a little big for some of our future responders, but all in all, a fun time.  Another popular event was handling hose lines and knocking down flames on a demo house.
Our junior firefighters gave talks on fire safety at home and what to do in an emergency.  Following the presentation, participants got a chance to experience the room filling with smoke, finding their way out of a trailer and finishing with a stop, drop and roll exercise. A special thanks goes to the Branford Fire Department for loaning us their smoke house trailer. All trucks were on display and residents had the opportunity to view the equipment that is used to support responders’ efforts.  The final event was an actual mock bedroom fire. Residents watched as a fire progressed in a confined room and witnessed first hand how firefighters respond and extinguish a fire.

We are very grateful for the support of our community and will continue to honor our commitment to “Neighbors Helping Neighbors”.



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