Ricci Poises Fire Houses In Snow Removal Plan

blizzard downtown
The blizzard of 2013 paralyzed Fairfield Avenue Downtown.

Ah, 60 degree weather in mid November and who’s thinking about snow? Public Facilities Director John Ricci. He realizes, with a reminder from his boss Mayor Joe Ganim, you’re really only as good as your last snow removal. So Ricci has noodled a new clearance strategy that adds fire to the ice.

Snow removal is a weary-eyed, labor intensive process, especially in restricted urban areas. Rather than sending public works crews home after long hours (or loading up on a pot of coffee at local diners), Ricci will utilize city firehouses as safe havens for his crews, rest up and recharge to head back to the plows and streets and a game plan to make roads passable. Ricci came up with the plan with assistance from Public Facilities Manager Craig Nadrizny and Joe Tiago, whom Ricci recently elevated as Public Facilities deputy director.

Public Facilities is arguably the most demanding department head position, a super agency that includes sanitation, recycling, leaf pickup, maintenance of city buildings, parks, roads, bridges and the airport. If municipal elections took place in the winter/spring would any mayor be reelected? Remember Jane Byrne’s campaign in Chicago?

The February 2013 storm was a beast for then-Mayor Bill Finch that Ganim leveraged in the 2015 primary campaign. Citizens were captive in their homes for days. Park Avenue, a major thoroughfare, impassable for days as well. Downtown a disaster zone.

Finch, exasperated, tried to put on the best face as ear-splitting complaints filled up phone lines and media outlets while he explained the frustrating cleanup response to the avalanche-like blast of snow, citing the “yahoos” who did not heed his warnings to stay off the roads. Some of those “yahoos” were folks already on the road before his warning and dedicated first responders trying to make it to work. They were trapped by the snow and forced to abandoned their vehicles. Team Finch heard the lungs of citizens at a jammed City Council chambers. Charlie Carroll, the Public Facilities director, eventually became a casualty demoted by Finch.

That was a mid-term for Finch who was not lanced by voters until two years later, but it was an election year for the City Council. Every Democratic-endorsed council member was buried in a blizzard of negative primary votes that September. But Finch’s yahoo factor played out in the 2015 race. Ganim reminded voters.

Last year, the first winter of Ganim’s comeback, was mild. Ricci’s not taking any chances.

He’s firing up firehouses to maximize snow removal operations.

Fire trucks and snow trucks here.


  1. What’s the BFD? So let’s have the city be paralyzed and the fire trucks be stranded in the snow. I remember the Blizzard of ’78 when several homes on the water burned down because the trucks couldn’t respond. BFD and PFD can be bunk buddies for a couple of hours.

      1. Come on, Mackey. Use a little common sense.
        All snow fighting vehicles will be equipped with GPS (Go Plow Snow) devices. When the road crews come into the firehouses the firefighters will take over snow plowing duties.
        If there is a call when they are out plowing, DPW personnel will grab the firefighting apparatus and using the GPS find a firefighting crew and switch out unless it is a grass fire and then the DPW crew will run out to the fire and dump a load of snow on it.
        This plan has been totally thought out. It’s not like they were sitting around Tiago’s half in the bag when they came up with this.

  2. I wonder if Joe picked this little idea up in Israel and passed it on the Ricci. Stevie A would post GENIUS!!! PURE GENIUS!!! This is the out-of-the-box thinking I knew Bridgeport was capable of. Soon every city in America will be following Joe’s lead in their snow fighting efforts!!! Morning is breaking.

    1. Bob, how right you are. Just look at Tallahassee FL and New Orleans LA. They will be getting their snowplows ready next decade or so, to be ready for this “outside the box” thinking. Speaking of New Orleans, perhaps they have a genius idea in the event our shoreline sustainability plan is inadequate. How many water taxis do we have in our fleet? I don’t think I heard anything about the taxis, Pleasure Beach and the pleasures of sand and sun while cohabiting the spit with the plovers this year. Anybody?

      When I say GREEN does your mind move to environmental issues or to financial issues, or do you get stuck dreaming about beer and bagels that change color in March each year. Well, a story has been passed around that our Public Works Department has some heavy duty equipment that was purchased with one type of fuel (gas, diesel or natural gas) but another form of fuel was decided more practical so a conversion or two @ $50,000 was directed and completed. Only to discover that maybe the facts were not correct and a re-conversion was ordered @ $50,000. If you were going to burn $200,000 of taxpayer money, couldn’t we have been a witness to this party? Is this a half-truth, pure rumor or the whole truth but without full explanation? Maybe I need Ed Adams to help me understand TRANSPARENCY better. Time will tell.

  3. I don’t know if Ripper is Joe Ganim or not, but he sure as hell is not a firefighter. Obviously he/she has never been to a fully involved fire in sub-freezing weather for hours, you’re wet, cold as hell and equally tired.

    When you return to your house you have to clean your apparatus, your tools, refill your oxygen tanks and prepare everything and yourself to do it all over again. Now you’re doing this prior to changing from your wet smelly clothes, taking a quick shower and hopefully replenishing your body to do this all over again. Replenishment of your body working nights sometimes meaning you’ll go lay down in your bunk and try to get an hour or two of sleep to be prepared to go out to save life and property.

    Now you want to put snowplows and other snow removal equipment into fire quarters to disturb those men and women who are risking their lives, who are trying to get a little rest before they have to do it all over just to be more efficient with snow removal. It defies credulity to think, feel or believe that would be in the best interest of Bridgeport’s bravest. It further defies credulity a chief worth his salt would sign off on this plan or any similar plan. Chief Thode, you know this is a bad idea and that can’t be the reason you were given that position, to have the BFD run from City Hall.

    Those men and women of the BFD who are putting their lives on the line deserves better than this as do the residents of Bridgeport whose lives of family and friends depends on their firefighters coming in well rested and ready to work.

    1. Donald–I have the utmost respect for our bravest. What good is it if you can’t get to the fire? I don’t think the PFD is going to be disruptive to your space. Ron brings up a good point about the trucks running.

      1. Ripper, I fought fires for over 20 years and have never had a problem getting to or from a fire. You can come up with a myriad of hypotheticals but the reality is snow plowing equipment responding from fire houses will have a bigger hindrance on the well-being of firefighters than the benefits to the public, and that isn’t a hypothetical.

        1. Donald, I’m fully aware of your service to our city and thank you. I don’t think this snow strategy is for every snowstorm. I think that is to be used as an implementer for a major snow episode. Here’s the real world about hypothetical thinking. How about when they closed 7-11’s in December of 2007 and the fire erupted across from Ruby’s on Fairfield Avenue resulting in multiple fatalities? Proper preparation prevents piss-poor performance! I’m not blaming our bravest but a lack of planning by leadership.

          1. Ripper, asked and answered. The city adopted an ordinance dealing with firehouse closings. Both permanent and temporary. I should know. I wrote it with the help of Mackey and Day.

          2. EXCUSE ME, GRIN RIPPER. There is a fire station virtually in the backyard of that fatal tragedy on Fairfield Avenue across from Ruby’s. When you are caught in a fire, a person has SECONDS to make a decision. A wrong decision will be fatal. I know. I was caught once in a house fire. It’s not the fire, it’s the smoke inhalation that is the killer.

          3. Mr. Gyure, the firehouse you mention was closed and the fire units relocated during renovations at the time of that tragedy. Which is what Grin Ripper was trying to point out.

          4. I will assume you are correct about the temporary closing of the firestation due to remodeling. The loss of life is a tragedy.

  4. FIREHOUSES ARE NOT GARAGES FOR PUBLIC FACILITIES. Why don’t you have them staying at that giant PF complex that sits on Housatonic Ave? If I were chief that would not happen.

  5. What about the toxic fumes from the snowplows those living next door and across the street from the firehouse have to inhale, especially if those plows are kept running?

    1. There is a State Law on this. Idle time of 10 min. Then in violation. All newer trucks the computer systems will shut them down after idling longer than 10 min. PFD at firehouses is not a good decision. Agreed. Ricci relies on the Department Head in the Roadway Dept. for all his answers. Tiago is clueless, agreed! Could be a long winter!

      1. If this posting has any credibility, one of the few times I “might” feel a handle gives some inside information. Does BPT have any newer trucks that will shut down after 10 minutes?

  6. During last year’s Trumbull budget discussions a request was brought up to build a facility at our DPW yard where snowplow drivers could catch a nap, shower, change clothing and eat a hot meal. They had an outrageously expensive proposal.
    I brought forward that a three-bedroom trailer with bath and kitchen could be bought used for about $10K, or even leased for the season.

    I got shot down, because no one connected can profit from such an inexpensive fix.
    Using firehouses in Trumbull is not a possibility as they are not municipal-owned facilities, but belong to the three fiefdoms called Volunteers who levy property tax on Trumbull landowners on top of the Town property tax.

  7. Another great idea from John Ricci. The question is, who told him to put out this brainstormer? Ricci’s usual answer is I did what I was told to do! Anyway, if the snowplows were doing their job, the streets would be plowed and everyone would be able to drive home. But no snow means less money for Charlie Mason/Mid-Town towing as they tow cars as snow emergencies are declared.

  8. Let’s never forget Only In Bridgeport, the late, great Mayor Jasper McLevy about snow and plowing. “God put the snow there, let Him take it away.” I also remember when I first bought my property in Bridgeport and I was given this advice from the Bridgeport Property Owners Association (led by a used-car dealer) that you should NOT plow the sidewalks by your property DESPITE city ordinances. If you don’t plow and someone slips, the slip is caused by an “act of God.” If you do plow and someone slips, you will be sued and the claim will be you did an unsatisfactory job plowing your sidewalks causing the slip and fall and injury.

  9. Grin Weeper doesn’t know enough to be quiet and run away from this debate. No one but Weeper, Ricci, Joey and Tiago think this is a good idea.
    But not to worry. With the Donald as prez global warming is no longer a hot issue.

  10. While the firestation idea might not be practical, at least some thinking is going on prior to the first snow emergency. In Bridgeport, an attempt at being prepared for the worst is unmistakable progress, even if the actual idea misses the mark.

    Now, with the original idea providing a base to work from, maybe some better ideas can be generated before the first big snowfall of the year.

    How about using the schools as rest stations in public-works emergencies? Certainly the use of the schools by the community in emergencies is not something without precedent or laden with unnavigable complications. Perhaps cots and basic supplies could be stored in schools for use by municipal workers in situations such as snow emergencies. In the context of this OIB segment, snowplow drivers could be accommodated in school gyms, with cots and basic supplies/cooking/food storage utilities being set up for them by school custodial staff in the event of predicted snow emergencies. The snowplow trucks shouldn’t be a problem in most school locations.

    1. Jeff, as you know there are many more school building than firehouses, in fact there are about three times as many. Bridgeport is not investing in new and more efficient snowplowing equipment and melting machines.

  11. By reading the comments I see this plan has been declared DOA. Only one problem; all you have discussed are your assumptions about idling snowplows, plows inside fire houses, property associations, and tow truck conspiracies. These assumptions are then backed up by anecdotal stories such as a retired Captain who never had a problem getting to a fire. I respect Mr. Day’s service, however firefighting doesn’t start or end with his experiences. I can assure you fire units have had difficulty responding to all incidents (firefighters don’t just respond to fires). That is why a National Guard Firefighting vehicle was in the City after Blizzard Nemo.

    Until the plan details are released I would withhold judgment. Nowhere in the story does it state snowplows will be in a firehouse. It states rather than send crews home they will rest and recover at a firehouse. Sounds sensible and could work as there are lockers, showers, cooking, and rest areas in firehouses, just what the snowplow drivers need to be ready for the next shift.

    City leaders are working to address problems that have been identified from past storms. Exactly the type of analysis needed to lead to better outcomes. Exactly the problem-solving process I would expect to be championed by those reading/posting on OIB.

    1. You said, “Only one problem; all you have discussed are your assumptions about idling snowplows, plows inside fire houses,” wrong, my concern is about those snow plows idling OUTSIDE the firehouse in the community where residents live, nobody thinks snowplows would running inside a firehouse. Then you said, “City leaders are working to address problems that have been identified from past storms,” working on what? There are 36 public schools in Bridgeport and 8 firestations so it would wiser to stage these snowplows where public school are, I mean this is a no-brainer.

      1. Rather than explain how the comma in my statement represent separate points, I will simply ask where does it state snowplows will be left idling outside firehouses. Apparently you are aware of details not publicized.

        1. Phocion, are you down to commas to defend yourself? Snowplowing is a time-sensitive project. Adding the additional planing to track where and when snowplow operators are sleeping make this plan less efficacious. Go tell that to John Ricci.

    2. Phocion, if you really want to learn about the tow truck cartel, look up Richard Valentino in the OIB archive and you can see the behind-the-scenes racket of the tow truck arrangement in Bridgeport, which is presently giving good business to Charlie Mason’s Mid-Town Towing. Also, look up the Ordinance Committee minutes of the city Council this past March 2016. CC Katie Bukovsky (sister of mayoral aide AND member of the Police Commission Dan Roach) tabled any attempt by the City to regain control of the third-party entities that are literally stealing private property from the people of Bridgeport by the tow truck company/Mid-Town Towing and the WPCA. I have to research the name of the attorney getting rich by doing the dirty work for THE WPCA.

  12. Phocion, my experiences gives me something you will never have, real-life experiences coming from and going to emergency situations in a fire apparatus. All fire apparatus are equipped with snow chains in the winter and again, in over 20 years of fire service, no fire apparatus has ever had a problem driving the roads of Bridgeport.

    Having said that, I don’t respect your opinion as you hide behind the cloak of anonymity and inscrutability and may I suggest you come out of the dark and stand behind your statements like a grown-ass man or woman would do, or shut the fluck up.

    Chief Thode, your energy would be better spent addressing why the new Lieutenant’s exam is being given again just because two people had a problem, or did the Mayor make you do this?

  13. The truly unfortunate aspect of this plan is that it totally disrespects the city’s firefighters.
    It is based on the premise the snowplow drivers need their rest more than firefighters do. That demonstrates a complete misunderstanding and consideration of what our firefighters have to do 24/7.

  14. John Ricci,
    How about totally rethinking the snow removal process throughout the city?
    I believe the city is divided up into quadrants or multiple geographic segments. This way everyone suffers equally.
    Well that may be good politics but it isn’t necessarily good practice. Maybe the city needs to define the most critical streets throughout the city and the number-one priority is to clear them and keep them clear. Once this has been accomplished then they can go about divvying up the city.

  15. Beyond correct planning as a snowstorm hits, the huge problem we have in Bridgeport that prevents efficient timely snow removal/plowing is the Park City has become The PARKING LOT City. Drive through most parts of Bridgeport AT NIGHT and due to the high concentration of multiple-family housing, you will see street after street fully lined on BOTH sides with cars as people have come back from work. The City declares snow emergencies where major streets allow no parking at all and the side streets are supposed to have alternate side parking but the alternate side parking is mostly ignored so the side streets remain a problem for days on end because effective snowplowing cannot be done. The massive amount of multiple-family houses were built around World War I to house the factory workers of the booming factories in Bridgeport at that time. Most people at that time took trolleys or buses to work because their place of employment was close by in the city they lived in. Car ownership was small and limited because most working people could not afford a car nor did they need a car. Fast forward 100 years later and the average car ownership is almost one per adult. So the WWI-era multi-families do not have the space (being built on small lots–many lots are only 60×100) and so we are now the PARKING LOT City. There had been a plan to make School or other parking lots available during snow emergencies but that was a complete failure. So this plan of giving plow operators R&R in fire stations really does absolutely nothing to help speed up snowplowing.

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