"Life Safety can not be taken lightly". More prophetic words have probably never been written in a Hartford Fire department incident report. Those words were written by Hartford Fire Department LT. John Nolan on October 5, 2014 in a "HFD Fire Service Report". A fire service report is the term HFD uses for its regular incident reports. Nolan's Fire Service report was written just 2 days before the Blue Hills fire in which Hartford Firefighter Kevin Bell was found dead. No cause for Bells death has been determined as of this time as the Connecticut Medical Examiner awaits toxicology results of testing on Bell's body. There were apparently no visible signs of trauma, heart disease or burns or life ending damage uncovered during Bell's autopsy
According to sources, Bell was still wearing his Scott Air pack and air mask when his unresponsive body was found almost 10 minutes after he went missing inside the burning building.
Now more questions arise as to what went wrong and what contributed to Bells death. One issue that may have contributed to Bells death was the condition of the thermal imager used on Engine 16. In e-mails obtained through an FOI request to HFD, it appears that 16's imager was not working properly at the time of the fire. An e-mail sent to Acting Assistant Chief Terry Waller stated on September 24 that the imager "is an issue and needs repair " the e-mail does not indicate if Waller took any corrective action or responded to replace or repair the unit. One source familiar with HFD operations told me that normally the imager would have been with the Engines Lieutenant in which case he would have located Bells body within seconds, not almost 10 minutes. In fairness, it is unknown if that delay would have made a difference in Bell's survival. The autopsy apparently, according to sources, did not show any signs of damage, asphyxiation or smoke in Bell's lungs.
Another issue has revolved around Bells air supply. Did he run out of air? In the fire service report below, LT. Nolan reportedly found 2 empty Scott Air tanks on engine 16, amongst other deficiencies that were life safety issues. If a firefighter were to grab an empty or partially filled air tank, that would affect the time they would safely have inside a structure fire breathing the tank air, rather than a full half hour they might only have minutes or less. There is an alarm on the tank that would sound after the tank pressure drops to about 5 minutes or less so the so the users lack of air would be warned first. Bells tank is currently being tested for any deficiencies by an outside agency.
After receiving Nolan's Fire Service Report via e-mail, Huertas instructed Acting Assistant Chief Waller to look into "this egregious behavior " immediately. Waller acknowledged Huertas "immediate request" the following day . There is no indication as to what action was taken or what Waller did. According to sources, the extent of Waller's actions to correct the problems at Engine 16 was to disparage and discredit Nolan for apparently "throwing another Lieutenant under the bus" by reporting the life threatening deficiencies to Chief Huertas.
There is no record of any retraining or discipline for anyone at engine 16 for the incident.
Nolan's Fire Service speaks for itself but it is interesting to note that Waller , apparently, chose not to take any action against the pump operator or anyone else involved in stating that the apparatus was fit for service when it clearly was not
And if you recognize the name of Lt Gregory Simon that Nolan mentions in his fire service report, this may be why. Simon has been the subject of several postings here on the blog after his stellar representation as a member and an officer of the Hartford Fire Department. Read more here or here about LT Simon, an excellent role model for new firefighters. Or even more here