One of the alarms that should have warned Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell that his air tank was running out of air was not working properly when he died fighting a fire in October, the federal government has concluded, reports The Hartford Courant.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health inspected two tanks, which fire professionals refer to as cylinders, after the Oct. 7 fire on Blue Hill Avenue. The Courant obtained the report Friday. Hartford Fire Marshal Roger Martin confirmed Friday that the second cylinder in question belonged to firefighter Jason Martinez, who suffered serious injuries in the fire.
The office of the chief state medical examiner previously ruled that Bell died because his cylinder had run out of air. Neither cylinder had air in it upon arrival at NIOSH, the report indicates.
The 20-page report raises questions about the conditions of the 10-year-old breathing apparatus that the men wore that night. Among the conclusions:
* Bell’s breathing apparatus failed the “remaining service life indicator” test. Bell’s cylinder had two alarm systems on it, and although the first one worked, the second alarm, which would have gone off when he had about 20 percent to 25 percent of his air left, did not pass the federal tests. Hartford fire officials said the alarm did sound, however. Martin would not say why Bell did not make it out of the house, saying that his death is still under investigation.
* Bell’s 4-year-old Scott Air Pak was in fair condition overall, although there were numerous scratches and gouge repairs on the cylinder, and parts of it were dirty.
* The air cylinder worn by the second firefighter had not been tested in the past five years, as required by federal laws. Bell’s air cylinder had been pressure tested in April 2013.
* The second breathing apparatus did not meet NIOSH’s pressure tests because it “did not maintain positive pressure” throughout the 30-minute testing period.
NIOSH said that the probe of the breathing apparatus has concluded and that “in light of the information obtained during this investigation, NIOSH has proposed no further action at this time.” NIOSH is still investigating the circumstances of the fatal fire and how the department responded.
The two units were returned to the fire department but cannot be put back into service until they are “repaired, tested, cleaned, and any damaged components replaced and inspected by a qualified service technician.”
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas acknowledged that the department had received and reviewed the NIOSH report.
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