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East Haven cops looking to equip cruisers with fire extinguishers

By Evan Lips, New Haven Register, Conn.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 01--EAST HAVEN -- On the heels the tragic May 24 incident in which a local man died after his burning car slammed into a gas station pole, officers are looking to the Board of Police Commissioners to find a way to have cruisers outfitted with fire extinguishers.

Daniel Kelson, 23, died as a result of the burns he suffered and according to a department press release, an officer happened to already be at the Frontage Road Hess gas station when Kelson's Mitsubishi Galant barreled into a pole located inches away from one of the gas pumps.

"Officer (Thomas) Finnimore then observed the driver, whose body was on fire, exit the vehicle and begin running away," Wednesday's press release stated. "(He) quickly secured a fire extinguisher from the gas station and chased after Kelson and eventually extinguished the fire on Kelson's body."

At Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners, the president of the local police officers union said there has been no follow-through on his requests to have fire extinguishers carried in cruisers.

"I brought it up at a department safety committee meeting, and they weren't much help," said Officer Bob Nappe. "I've been requesting this, and they told me we'd have to be trained and insured."

Police Chief Brent Larrabee said he's been working with the town's insurance provider to get approval for the fire extinguishers. He added that while patrol cars are currently not equipped with fire extinguishers, cars belonging to supervisors have them.

"I find it remarkable that the cars, which are out on the road the most, do not have them," said commission Chairman William Illingworth.

The department, however, cannot make a quick fix and make a simple order for fire extinguishers. Larrabee explained that officers must first be trained in how to use them. Larrabee added that he's also working on having department cruisers equipped with automated external defibrillators.

Several neighboring towns feature police cruisers equipped with fire extinguishers. A spokesman for the North Haven Police Department said every officer's cruiser features one. Same goes for West Haven Police Department cruisers. The Branford Police Department also features cruisers equipped with fire extinguishers.

David Hartman, spokesman for the New Haven Police Department, said that while police cruisers do not feature fire extinguishers, they are carried on emergency services unit trucks.

Call Evan Lips at 203-789-5727. Have questions, feedback or ideas about our news coverage? Connect directly with the editors of the New Haven Register at AskTheRegister.com.

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(c)2014 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)

Visit the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.) at www.nhregister.com

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