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Concerns Were Raised Days Before Firefighter Death

Concerns Raised Prior to Firefighter Death

(Published Friday, Dec. 5, 2014)

Two months after a Hartford firefighter was killed while battling a blaze, newly released documents reveal that several concerns had been raised about the Hartford Fire Department engine company just days before the fire.

Firefighter Kevin Bell, 48, was killed while responding to a fire in the city’s North End on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 7 and sources have told The NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters that investigators determined Bell was low on air before collapsing on the night of that fire.

Among the documents city officials released on Friday was a letter Lt. John Nolan, a member of Engine 16, sent to Fire Chief Carlos Huertas two days before the fatal fire that mentioned issues with the preparedness at the firehouse.

Two of the bottles, which supply firefighters’ air packs, that were supposed to be full, were found empty on one of the fire trucks, Nolan wrote in the letter.

"Currently there are ongoing active investigations into the tragic death of Hartford Firefighter Kevin Bell," Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas said in a statement. "These investigations will be a thorough examination of the totality of circumstances surrounding this incident. When the investigation is complete, it will provide clarity and understanding into the very sad events of October 7th, 2014. Until the investigation is complete it would be improper for me to comment."

Sources within the Hartford Fire Department tell the Troubleshooters that there had been issues like this and others within Engine 16 for some time.

Following is the full letter:
October 5, 2014
Carlos M. Huertas
Chief of Department

Sir,  This fire service is to inform you of an ongoing problem at Engine 16.  I have repeatedly spoken to Lt. Simon about the Company members on his shift regarding daily apparatus checks and house work not being completed on his shift.  I have informed Captain Dalton of this problem and he has spoken to Lt. Simon on numerous occasions.  Often times Captain Dalton came in on his off time to do this.  Last tour I came in to find out that the machine shop had dropped off our apparatus after having a PM performed.  When my driver relieved Acting PO, F.F. James Eaton, he told PO Gauvreau that he had checked out the apparatus thoroughly and it was all set.  P.O. Gauvreau pulled the apparatus out on the ramp and began his checks. He found it was 25 gallons low on fuel, generator empty of fuel, gas can empty.  The pump was not primed even though F.F. Eaton said he flowed water.  The relief valve was set below 100, 2 empty Scott bottles.  Just 2 tours before this the EMS bags on the apparatus were not stocked and had no BVM which we needed for a medical call.  House work has not been performed any where near satisfactory, if at all.  I strongly recommend that both Lt. Simon and F.F. Eaton be sent for retraining.  Life safety cannot be taken lightly.  Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lt. John Nolan #624
Engine 16 Tour