Mayor Announces Hartford Fire Department Task Force

Hours after two Hartford firefighters appeared in court on unrelated charges, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra announced that he has created a task force that will be looking into the Hartford Fire Department and advising him over the next three months.

Segarra said he has full confidence in Fire Chief Carlos Huertas and his goal is to get the department back on a positive course, make sure the fire department has the support it needs and to ensure that people of Hartford have a department they can have confidence in.

"Our fire department has... unfortunately had some serious and very tragic events over the last couple of months, most notably the tragic death of Fireman (Kevin) Bell," Segarra said.

He called firefighters heroes, but said public safety cannot be compromised.

"What should not be affected is the people of Hartford's confidence in their first responders," Segarra said.

The task force will include an advisory group of former fire chiefs who will be responsible for command review, looking into resources and equipment and the investigation into the on-duty death of Firefighter Kevin Bell.

It will also include a six-member committee to develop a new code of conduct for the fire department, which will cover conduct both while on-duty and off.

Segarra made the announcement on a day when two Hartford firefighters appeared in court on unrelated charges.

Jeffrey Vendetta, 43, was in court to answer to drunken driving charges and Justin Wood, 25, was in court briefly in connection with an accidental shooting.

When asked how many firefighters are on administrative leave at the time, Segarra responded "four or five."

The mayor is also encouraging first responders to use resources within city when they have issues with drugs, alcohol, mental health or anything else that might affect jobs.

When asked about the investigation into the death of Firefighter Kevin Bell, Segarra said he is "all onboard" if a decision is made to have an outside investigation.

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