The Hartford Fire Department held a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon to remember a colleague who died in the line of duty a year ago today.
Forty-eight-year-old Kevin Lamont Bell was on the front lines when fire broke out at 598 Blue Hills Avenue on Oct. 7, 2014, and he was among the first to enter the burning building.
After a prayer from the department's chaplain and a reading of the firefighter's prayer, fire officials brought out a floral wreath in his honor, rang a bell in his memory and held a moment of silence in his memory. Bells traditionally used to be run to call firefighters to duty and signify the end of a call. The bells would also toll when a firefighter was lost in the line of duty.
"Allow your love to bring healing when you no longer see Kevin Bell's face. Allow your love to bring healing when we no longer hear his laughter and his voice," the chaplain said in prayers.
Bell was critically injured in the blaze, went into cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at Saint Francis Hospital.
He was the first Hartford firefighter to die while fighting a fire in 40 years and the department will honor him in during 4 p.m. remembrance ceremony at Engine Company 16, located at 636 Blue Hills Avenue.
In late January, a federal investigation found Bell died after running low on air. It said a low-air alarm on Bell’s breathing tank failed a test after the fire, but Hartford officials said the alarm activated.
Then, in April, the state labor department handed the city of Hartford citations for five serious violations in connection with the fire and Bell’s death.
Those violations included a lack of medical evaluations of firefighters on the line, failure to ensure firefighters wore helmets properly with chin straps, failure to "fit test" members for their breathing apparatus, failure to properly test air bottles that enable firefighters to breathe at a fire scene and failure to require all firefighters to wear protective fire-resistant hoods.
Later that month, officials from the fire department said they had reached a settlement with the state’s OSHA division on the violations.
One of safety changes to come in the wake of Bell’s death was the promise that all Hartford firefighters would receive heat-resistant, flame-retardant fire hoods to cover their faces and necks. Those have since been issued, officials said.
In August, a report from the Hartford Board of Inquiry, which investigated the fire, determined that Bell became entangled in furniture and was not able to escape the building.