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Fairfield 'Tops Off' New Regional Fire Training School

Fairfield dignitaries sign a steel beam before it's placed atop the new Fairfield Regional Fire Training School. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Workers use a crane to construct the new Fairfield Regional Fire Training School. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Workers are constructing the new Fairfield Regional Fire Training School on One Rod Highway. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Fairfield marked a milestone Monday as a crowd gathered for the “topping off” celebration at the future home of the Fairfield Regional Fire Training School.

Based on an old Scandinavian tradition, the topping off is a builders’ rite that’s held when the last beam is placed on a structure during construction.

At Monday’s ceremony, state legislators, local dignitaries and fire officials joined First Selectman Michael Tetreau in autographing the beam, some adding messages of goodwill and commemorating former members of the Fire Department.

“I’m very thrilled that we’re doing this in Fairfield,” said state Sen. Tony Hwang. “This is the region’s pride.”

One of eight in the state, the Fairfield fire school is being built on a former Nike missile site on One Rod Highway. Acquired by the town in 1960, it has been home to an older fire school where many firefighters in the region have trained, said Assistant Chief Chris Tracy, the chief of training for the Fairfield department.

“Thousands have trained here,” he said.

The new school, which will cost about $11.8 million, features state-of-the-art facilities, including classrooms, a three-bay apparatus building, pads for propane fire training and a large building and tower for active fire training.

It will be available for firefighters from Fairfield as well as teams from across the region from New Jersey to Rhode Island, Tracy said.

Tetreau said he was pleased to be able to offer town firefighters and others a modern, well-equipped space to train “to protect our town, our community and the region.

“This is a major milestone,” he said.

Workers began construction on the site about 10 weeks ago and it is expected to be open for training in May 2017, Tracy said.

Topping off, or topping out, can be traced to an ancient Scandinavian religious rite of placing a tree on top of a new building to ward off tree-dwelling spirits. It’s seen as a sign of good luck and goodwill on construction sites today.

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