April 06, 2020

Canaan firefighters meet residents’ storm needs

CANAAN — The biggest thing in Canaan is Route 2. It bisects the heart of town, carrying tourists past Sibley Pond, where they take hundreds of fall foliage pictures every year, and by the handful of specialty antique shops in the tiny center of town.

Route 2 never lost power during the recent ice storm, a fact that is causing Town Clerk Sherill Hunt some guilt.

“I really feel like I should have suffered more,” said Hunt at the town office Wednesday as she fielded telephone calls from folks looking for assistance. “I look across the street at the fire station and think of all those other people.”

At the Canaan Fire Station, volunteers have been taking in cold and hungry people for more than a week. For four of those days, the shelter itself was without electricity. Now, with about a dozen people still staying overnight, the volunteers have turned their attention to helping their neighbors who chose to remain in their homes.

Midmorning Wednesday, firefighters James MacArthur and Mike Robinson Jr. were just coming in the door to pick up food for a homebound family.

“Today, we are road-rammin’,” said MacArthur. “We have someone who just had major surgery who just can’t get out. We brought water to another person who is on oxygen. We’ve been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner — three hot meals a day — here at the fire station, but there are still a number of people who just won’t leave their homes.”

MacArthur said some people are ill or recuperating from illness, while others just refuse to leave their pets or property.

Jen Sisco has doubled as cook and bottle washer since she and her husband, Rick, arrived at the shelter for warmth.

“The biggest thing standing in a lot of folks’ way is pride,” said Sisco. “People need to call if they need help and tell us what they need. This is not the time to be shy. This isn’t welfare, something to be ashamed of. This is neighbor helping neighbor.”

MacArthur said he was shocked two days ago to discover one Canaan family trying to get warm in their car.

“They live in a trailer and have four kids. They had no heat, no water, no food. We got them a kerosene heater and fuel, hauled them some water and then brought them some food,” said the firefighter. “People need to call us, for anything. We are here to help.”

Rick Sisco said: “There was a time when everyone was thinking of themselves. But this has brought us all together.”

Firetrucks at the fire station are housed on the first floor, and the shelter and kitchen have been turned into a cozy, homelike atmosphere on the second floor of the building.

“We only normally have one oyster supper a year here,” said MacArthur. The meals the firefighters have been serving were being cooked in two large soup pots and a frying pan. “When this is all over, we need to get some kitchen supplies,” he joked.

But MacArthur quickly got serious when he talked about the Canaan people still without power, trying to keep themselves and their homes warm.

“As people get their power back, they are loaning out their kerosene heaters to others. People have been emptying their freezers and bringing the food to us to help out. The parsonage across the street is offering free showers, as is the former assistant fire chief next door.

“Just bring your own towel,” said MacArthur.

The Red Cross pulled out of Canaan on Monday night, said MacArthur, and the Fire Department and residents have been managing on their own since then. “We have some donated cots,” said MacArthur, who along with Robinson slept on tables one night when all the beds were taken. “We’ve had people here from Canaan, Pittsfield, Hartland and Fairfield,” he said.

Anyone in Canaan needing any type of assistance may call the fire station nonemergency line 24 hours a day at 474-5353.

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