Well before dawn on Thanksgiving morning, Norwich Town Manager Neil Fulton got a shock.
He was the acting fire chief for the holiday, so he got the call that the town’s three police squad cars were all ablaze in the department parking lot.
And as soon as he and Police Chief Douglas Robinson saw the entire fleet in flames, they knew that the cars would be a total loss.
"That was my initial reaction," Fulton said, "and I think the police chief’s initial reactions were very similar as to what happened that caused three police vehicles to be burning all at the same time."
Fulton says state police concluded the cause was undetermined but not suspicious. But the town’s insurance company will conduct its own probe, as will the town. So Fulton says the question of arson has not been definitely answered.
Meanwhile, Norwich has put out bids for new cruisers. Fulton says they will be paid for by a combination of insurance and funds on hand. Hartford and the Windsor County Sheriff’s department have loaned Norwich two fully equipped vehicles. And those agencies say that has not created hardships for them.
Fulton says he was worried, at first, about what the fire would do to police morale.
"Because they’re great people and I want to make sure that they know that we understand what happened and support them. And we’ve had a great outpouring of support from the community showing how much they respect and support our police department. I’m very pleased with that," Fulton said.
Some of that support has shown up in emails, visits, and on a town listerve. But some residents say they will only feel better-and safer-after the cause of the fires is better understood.