Hartford's Interim Assistant Fire Chief Demoted: Sources - NBC Connecticut

Hartford's Interim Assistant Fire Chief Demoted: Sources

(Published Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015)

The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters have learned there's been a shakeup in the Hartford Fire Department.

Interim Asst. Fire Chief Terry Waller has been demoted, sources told the Troubleshooters.

Waller, who was the ranking officer at the scene of the October blaze where firefighter Kevin Bell died in the line of duty, submitted a letter to Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas on Wednesday explaining that he feels stripped of responsibility.

The Troubleshooters exclusively obtained a copy of that letter.

Unanswered Mayday Call a Focus of Fatal Fire Probe

[HAR] Unanswered Mayday Call a Focus of Fatal Fire Probe
Investigators probing the line-of-duty death of a Hartford firefighter on Oct. 7 are taking a close look at the “mayday” call that went unanswered and the fact that fallen firefighter Kevin Bell was low on air before he went down, sources told the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters.
(Published Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014)

"This is to inform you that I will be returning to my permanent position as Deputy Chief in District 1, effective immediately," the letter begins. "I have been Interim Assistant Chief for more than 1 year and it was a much appreciated opportunity, however I have experienced my authority to get things done within the department diminish."

Waller went on to explain that all division heads and deputy chiefs now report directly to Huertas and no longer to him. He also said he's been excluded from helping to make personnel assignments and transfers.

"As a member of senior management I have had no role in assisting with the management of the department budget," the letter continues. "Also, by not permitting me to have any support staff has made it difficult for me to successfully carry out my responsibilities."

Multiple sources within the department told the Troubleshooters that a notice went out to the entire department informing them that Waller had been moved down.

The chief said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that Waller's change of rank came at his own request.

"Terry Waller has served the Hartford Fire Department for many years. He is entitled to make decisions regarding his own career," Huertas wrote. "I respect his decision to resume his duties and thank him for his service as Interim Assistant Chief."

Huertas said Waller's responsibilities will be divided among other members of the department command staff.

"Moving forward, we will give careful consideration as to how best to fill this position for the benefit of our Fire Department and the people of Hartford," he wrote.

Despite being the ranking officer on scene at the fatal fire in October, the Troubleshooters have learned that Waller never took command that night.

Sources told the Troubleshooters that Waller's demotion relates to a recent conflict with Huertas.

"By returning to the position of Deputy Chief now you will be able to select a permanent Assistant Chief that you trust and have confidence in," Waller's letter to Huertas concludes. "Wishing you continued success."

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