Several people have commented lately after the Nolan Administrative Suspension to "wait until the truth comes out". Well , the truth is coming out and it is not Dan Nolan that needs to be worried.
HFD is not great with FOI. It took me almost two months to get an FOI request I submitted on March 1, 2015, but it was well worth the wait.
I had originally requested repair documents for HFD Ladder 6. Ladder 6 is a brand new piece of apparatus purchased about a year ago for close to 3/4 of a million dollars. It had been at City Yard, the HFD repair garage for months. I was wondering why a 3/4 of a million dollar piece of equipment that was almost brand new would be out of service for so long.
I went about submitting an FOI request for documents related to Ladder 6, including maintenance and repair records.
Well FOI is a wonderful thing. Sometimes you get what you are looking for and sometimes you get things you never expected. The two months turned out to be well worth the wait (although probably illegal also on the part of HFD for the delay)
It turns out that the reason for Ladder 6 being off the line for so long is due to mismanagement of the HFD and possibly Hartford City Hall also.
Ladder 6 was brought to City Yard for repair work on the rear bucket that raises and lowers firefighters possibly hundreds of feet in the air. Because of the heights and weigh involve, the yoke and attachments must be tested each time the bucket is worked on. The testing is apparently conducted by American Test Center of River Falls, Wisconsin. Apparently American Test Center is a "for profit" business and frowns upon providing services when there bills aren't paid.
After planning work was performed on Ladder 6, American Test Center did not wish to perform the required testing until their past due bills were paid by HFD. According to invoices obtained under the FOI request, it appears that American Test Center charged HFD in the range of $450.00 per test, so we aren't talking huge dollar amounts. But none the less, the apparatus was kept off of Hartford's streets because of the unpaid bill. A couple servings of Segarra caviar would have gotten Ladder 6 back on the street much quicker.
Shortly after I made my FOI request, the bills to American Test Center that had been unpaid for months , were suddenly paid and Ladder 6 is back on the line today.
But even more important are statements made in an e-mail that was also part of the FOI request and should be raising serious questions related to the death of Firefighter Kevin Bell and the mismanagement of the Hartford Fire Department.
Questions were raised about the condition of the "FIT" testing machine. FIT testing apparently is the process named for checking the air mask used by firefighters and the masks suitability for use. According to the email HFD's "FIT" testing machine is broken. Parts are no longer available for the machine. (FIT testing is required by OSHA and was also an issue in the Bell investigation.)
When asked why HFD wasn't doing "FIT" testing , according to the e-mail, technicians were told that HFD was planning on buying all new masks, the AV3000, and everyone would need to be refitted at that time so hold off. According to HFD sources, those new masks have never been purchased and the FIT tests are still an issue.
The e-mail obtained through the FOI request was addressed to FIER R001@ Hartford. gov. FIERR 001 is Rocco Fierevante, the Hartford Firefighters Union Vice President. Why are Hartford Firefighters paying Union dues if their Vice President doesn't raise issues when their lives are possibly being endangered by dangerous conditions?
One of the common themes addressed by Chief Nolan prior to his "insubordination" is also highlighted in the e-mail "There has been a total lack of Communication" The issue of expired "air bottles" is mentioned and nothing being done to correct the problem. "We currently have an unacceptable number that need to be removed from service". Then why aren't they? Does Chief Huertas feel as though it is acceptable to send firefighters into burning buildings with less than desirable equipment? The author mentions trying to work within the requirements of "political budget cuts". Politics has no place in determining the safety of out firefighters. Unless of course our politicians like being on TV at firefighters funerals giving their kind words to the families of deceased firefighters.
The e-mail also mentions that the Hartford Fire Department "has an epidemic amount of vendors that have been calling us on past due invoices". Many of those vendors have also now put the Hartford Fire Department on a COD basis. The email states that many vendors including NAPA, Fleetpride, FirestoneTire all now require cash up front before supplying parts to the Hartford Fire Department. At least two vendors , Chips Auto Electric and International Radiator only allow HFD to pick up parts after they are repaired only if they are paid for .
The e-mail also mentions "the matter of ladder 6 aerial test that sat out of service for 3plus months... due to past due invoices. I detailed that issue above.
It seems as though Chief Huertas has no problem putting the residents of Hartford and more importantly his own firefighters in harms way though his lack of management and accountability The sad part is that many of these issues seem very easy to change with just a small amount of leadership or even management., which Huertas clearly lacks.