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Fire task force: Lack of training a factor in Conn. LODD

Kevin Bell received 1,899 hours of training, but the report showed that 1,754 hours were in one day; officials deemed it a data issue

The Hartford Courant

HARTFORD, Conn. — Members of a task force investigating a fire that resulted in the first line-of-duty fatality in the Hartford Fire Department in 40 years expressed concern Thursday that a lack of training may have been a factor in the firefighter’s death.

Members of the task force, made up of four retired city fire chiefs, voiced those concerns in response to information they received regarding the amount of training firefighter Kevin Bell received in the 18 months before he died in a house fire on Blue Hills Avenue Oct. 7.

Retired Chief Edward Casares said that, according to training records, Bell received 1,899 hours of training, but the report showed that 1,754 hours were in one day, which Casares deemed a data issue.

Subtracting those hours, Casares said, left only 145 hours of training over 18 months.

“One hundred forty-five hours of training is not appropriate,” Casares said.

Casares also questioned a report from the training division showing that Bell received live fire training twice in that span, saying that the two sessions were actually fire department demonstrations for visitors.

“I’m having difficulty understanding how they would be considered live fire training,” he said.

Daniel Nolan, deputy chief of the training division, said Thursday that he wasn’t sure what data Casares was referring to and questioned Casares’ ability to judge the training division.

“He has no concept of what training entails,” Nolan said. “I never saw him once when he was chief.”

Nolan also said live fire training is severely restricted because the smoke house is out of compliance with building codes.

Live fire training is also restricted by weather conditions and is not allowed when the Harford Police Department shooting range, adjacent to the facility, is in use.

Members of the task force also voiced their displeasure over a lack of response from the fire department regarding the incident reports from the fire that killed Bell and seriously injured another firfighter, who was forced to jump from a second floor window, and regarding information about the board of inquiry reviewing the department’s response to the fire.

Casares said that the department cited an “ongoing investigation” as a reason for denying the release of incident reports and that no information has been provided regarding what the board of inquiry is doing or even if it has a meeting planned.

When asked last week when the board of inquiry had last met and if it had a meeting scheduled, Hartford Fire Marshal Roger Martin, the chairman of the board, declined to comment.

“We have been told by the mayor that we would get cooperation,” Casares said. “It doesn’t appear that way.”

The task force is scheduled to meet again April 2.

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