Fire department buys tracking SCBA after LODD

The new equipment is part of the department's response to an agreement with Conn-OSHA following the investigation into the death of firefighter Kevin Bell

The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, Conn. — About 150 firefighters in the Hartford Fire Department will be getting state-of-the-art breathing apparatus equipment that will allow incident commanders to electronically track every firefighter who enters a burning building.

Firefighters displayed the new Scott self-contained breathing apparatus equipment at a press conference Wednesday morning at the Engine Company 15 firehouse.

"Each air pack is electronically assigned to a firefighter" so an incident commander will know exactly who is in a building and where they are, deputy chief Scott Brady said.

Most of the funding for the 150 new self-contained breathing apparatus is coming from a federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant. The city is also contributing some of the funding.

The new equipment is part of the department's response to an agreement with Conn-OSHA following that agency's investigation into the death of firefighter Kevin Bell in October of 2014.

The agency fined the department $4,000 and cited them for five equipment-related issues including a failure to ensure that all firefighters had been fit-tested for their self-contained breathing apparatus in the past year and a failure to ensure that all self-contained breathing apparatus air cylinders were tested every five years, as required by federal law.

Bell, 48, died in October while fighting a house fire at 598 Blue Hills Ave., becoming the first city firefighter to die in the line of duty in 40 years. Another firefighter, Jason Martinez, was badly burned and forced to jump from a second-story window.

The Conn-OSHA investigation also found that the department did not issue, or require the use of, protective fire/heat resistant hoods by firefighters responding to the blaze, that all firefighters had not received required medical evaluations prior to annual fitness testing, and that the department failed to ensure that firefighters wore helmets or wore equipment properly. OSHA investigators said that several firefighters were not properly wearing ear flaps or chin straps at the fire in which Bell died.

Brady said another benefit of the new air packs is they contain 45 minutes worth of air. The old packs contain 30 minutes of air.

Brady said the department had started replacing the older packs before the fire that claimed Bell's life but had not completed it because of the cost. He said every firefighter who rides on a truck and would be in position to actively fight a fire will get the new equipment. The department is completing the training on how to use the new equipment.

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