Breathing Apparatus Focus of Probe into Connecticut Firefighter Death

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Investigators working to determine how Hartford (CT) firefighter Kevin Bell died in a house fire last month have turned some of their attention to his breathing apparatus, examining whether it was working properly and whether his air tank was full when he entered the burning building, reports the Hartford Courant.

Bell died while fighting a fire inside a Blue Hills Avenue home on Oct. 7. The tank and breathing apparatus have been sent for testing. A law enforcement source said officials are also hoping to determine if Bell’s tank was full when he went into the burning house.

Hartford fire Chief Carlos Huertas has named a board of inquiry to review the department’s actions. He has appointed deputy fire chief of training Daniel Nolan to lead the seven-person board.

“We want to do a detailed and thorough investigation to get the most accurate information about what happened that night,” Nolan said Tuesday. The rest of the board is made up of the fire marshal, two deputy chiefs, two union officers and a representative from the employee assistance program.

Nolan said that the state fire marshal’s office, Conn-OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health were also conducting investigations. The state fire marshal’s office took Bell’s equipment — including the tank, mask and connecting hoses — and sent it for testing, sources said. The breathing apparatus is among multiple areas of focus, the sources said.

A review of radio communications during the fire shows that Bell was in the house less than 12 minutes when another member of Engine 16 called a mayday. The firefighters had entered the house through the front door and went up the stairs where it’s believed the fire originated, according to dispatch recordings.

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