Local filmmaker focuses frame on Ridgefield Fire Department in new documentary: ‘More than I imagined’

RIDGEFIELD — Only Joe Lane would think to stick a car-mounted camera on a fire truck.

The idea occurred to Lane, a local filmmaker, while he was walking past the Ridgefield Fire Department last fall. He asked Chief Jerry Myers if he could test the tech on the truck just to “have fun with it,” he said.

Lane initially planned to create a five-minute video from the footage, he said, but as he spent more time at headquarters learning from Ridgefield’s finest, he saw a greater story unfold.

His new documentary, “Partners,” will highlight the lives of Ridgefield’s career and volunteer firefighters, their relationship with the community and the intricacies of the fire service. It comes as the department prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary this June.

Lane, 79, started producing videos with his wife, Barbara, back in the ‘90s. The couple has mostly lived in Ridgefield for more than 20 years, having spent some time in China. When they returned to the U.S. in 2013, they pooled their production skills into JTFM Productions.

Not long after his first day of filming at the firehouse, Lane got permission to accompany four of RFD’s recruits on a trip to the Connecticut Fire Academy in Windsor Locks. He realized there that the fire service was “not at all what I expected,” he said. “It was more than I imagined.”

“People are shocked when they find out about the things we do, and it was a real learning curve for Joe,” Myers said. “To be authenticated by somebody who’s going to follow us around and make a film, (they’ll) get a chance to see who the people are that make up the fire department and what we do out there.”

Lane has already interviewed most of Ridgefield’s professional firefighters and will poll volunteer members soon. He also plans to showcase the department’s full-service EMS system in the documentary.

“Dr. (Patrick) Broderick” — chair of Emergency Medicine at Danbury Hospital — “certifies what (medical services) you can carry or administer, and our fire department is at the absolute top,” Lane said. “You can’t go any further without becoming a trauma surgeon.”

Lane’s been taking ride-alongs with Engine 1 in recent weeks to gauge how to best shoot b-roll for the film. He recalled accompanying first responders to a chimney fire last week. He was astonished at the level of service they delivered.

“(The chimney) caught fire at the top of the smokestack, and there was creosote flaming out into the house,” he said. “They kept working … until they had gotten all the creosote out (and) swept off the roof. This is the kind of service you hope you get if you go to a really good restaurant.”

Lane wants to interview residents who have experienced this professionalism firsthand to demonstrate the partnership between the firefighters and the citizens they serve.

At the heart of the documentary is the personalities behind the men and women of the Ridgefield Fire Department. Lane said their conversations in front of the camera and behind the scenes share a common thread: the satisfaction they feel when helping someone in need.

“One guy who was training to be a chemical engineer … quit college and became a firefighter — that’s really powerful public service,” he added. “Too many of our citizens in this country don’t see public service as a true (profession). Without public service, our systems and institutions fall apart.”

Lane anticipates to have most of the footage “in the can” by the end of June, he said, just in time for the department’s 125th anniversary parade. He is also talking with local musicians to produce an original score that “matches the power of the film itself.”

He hopes to premiere the documentary at The Ridgefield Playhouse this fall.