The dysfunction within the Hartford Fire Department was on full display Wednesday during and following a meeting of the Hartford Fire Task Force.
Fire Chief Carlos Huertas and his most outspoken critic, Deputy Chief of Training Daniel Nolan, were both invited to the meeting to answer questions and identify what they feel are the problems that need fixing within the department.
Sitting at a table right next to his boss, Nolan said there was a lack of communication between them. But, Huertas insisted, he does communicate.
"I'm very direct with communications. I give out orders and I want them executed," the chief said.
Nolan responded by saying that the chief giving orders does not work "especially when they're unlawful and they jeopardize the safety of our firefighters." And, Nolan said, the chief must answer to his firefighters and "wearing five bugles doesn't excuse him."
"I take exception with those comments. But that's something I'll have to deal internally with," said Huertas.
After the meeting, new Interim Asst. Chief Scott Brady intensely confronted Nolan asking him to "return to training" and not to speak to the media but the chief and his public information officer whisked Brady away and Nolan continued to speak freely – and to criticize Huertas.
"We need a Mustafa, instead of a Bambi and until that changes we're going to be in trouble," he said.
And Nolan's criticism was not limited to the chief. In his comments after the meeting, he also lashed out at two retired chiefs, Edward Casares and Charles Teale, who was not present at the meeting, saying that the political promotions and hiring that happened under their watch are to blame for a lot of the problems that exist today. Both Casares and Teale sit on the Task Force.
"Their credibility is lacking for the most part, in my opinion, and they shouldn't be advising anyone," Nolan said, suggesting Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra should have hired an outside, unbiased panel to investigate the department.
The Hartford Fire Task Force, made up primarily of former Hartford fire chiefs, was put together by Segarra after firefighter Kevin Bell died battling a blaze on Blue Hills Avenue in October. The panel is charged with identifying problems within the department and recommending changes.
Both Huertas and Nolan, who used to be friends, told the panel that the department needs more training and better staffing.
The task force is expected to report its findings to the mayor within 30 days.