Conn. fire dept. to rename firehouse after fallen brother

Kevin Bell, a six-year veteran, was the department's first firefighter in 40 years to die in the line of duty

By Steven Goode
The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, Conn. — The Hartford Fire Department will rename Engine Co. 16's firehouse after firefighter Kevin L. Bell on Sunday.

Bell, who would have turned 51 on Sunday, died fighting a house fire on Blue Hills Avenue in October 2014.

Sunday's ceremonial renaming of the firehouse, which is also on Blue Hills Avenue, will include unveiling a plaque in Bell's name and laying a wreath beneath it.

Fire Chief Reginald Freeman said renaming the house after Bell, who grew up in the neighborhood, was a way to pay respect to him, his family and the community.

"It's important to preserve the memory of those who served and lost their lives so they aren't forgotten and so that the community can remember that service," Freeman said.

Bell, a six-year veteran, was the first firefighter in 40 years to die in the line of duty. His death prompted a series of investigations into the cause and the way the department responded to the fire at the two-family home not far from the firehouse.

A fire department board of inquiry found about two dozen mistakes and other issues, including a failure to properly search the room in which Bell was trapped and the failure to hear a mayday call that he was unaccounted for.

The inquiry found that Bell was left behind for more than eight minutes after his partner, Lt. John Moree, made the mayday call after losing contact with Bell in the house. It also identified a lack of training for command officers and other mistakes in firefighting and life-saving procedures.

As a result of the inquiry, numerous changes were instituted in the way the department responds to fires and other protocols.

In November 2015, Bell's family filed a wrongful death suit against the city. The suit named then-Fire Chief Carlos Huertas, Deputy Chief James McLoughlin, who was in command of the fire scene at 598 Blue Hills Ave., and Moree.

The family settled the suit in December 2016 for $350,000. As part of the settlement, the city agreed to work with Bell's family to determine an appropriate way to honor him.

Bell's brother, Shawn Bell, said Friday that "other than us taking this time to honor Kevin on Sunday," the family would have no further comment.

The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. at 636 Blue Hills Ave. and is open to the public.

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