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Hartford Fire Dept. final report: Firefighter Bell became entangled in furniture before his death

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HARTFORD - Friday afternoon, The Hartford Fire Department released the final results of its investigation into the circumstances that killed one firefighter and injured four others back in October.

The report said firefighter Kevin Bell became entangled in some furniture the night of the October 7, 2014 Blue Hills Avenue fire that ultimately killed him.

The department released the final Board of Inquiry report of its investigation into the circumstances that killed bell and injured Lt. John Moree,  firefighters Jason Martinez, Colin McWeeny and Kevin Burke.

"It was the worst possible scenario at the worst possible time," said Assistant Chief Scott Brady.

According to the report, Engines 16, 14, and 7, Ladders 4 and 3, Tactical Unit 1 and District 2 responded to the two alarm fire at 598-600 Blue Hills Ave.

fire investigation

Engine 16, Bell’s company, brought a handline hose to the front entrance. Moree directed Bell to handle the line inside the building to “direct the stream towards the ceiling to cool off the room.”

Simultaneously, Martinez and Tactical Unit 1 traveled towards the front of the structure to search for hidden fire. That is when, the report states, Martinez was struck by a hose stream in the face. It also struck two other firefighters. Fire officials said it was the hose manned by Bell.

"There is some potential that instead of directing it more overhead, that hose line for some reason came down lower than where we would have liked to have seen it. Whether that was a training issue or physical issue of them being on the line, we can't really say,” Brady said.

Martinez said the hose stream knocked off his helmet and face piece and briefly made him unconscious. He reported, “It was extremely hot and his head and eyes were burning.”

The report states that Martinez lost consciousness again and tumbled out of a second-floor window of the house. He spent weeks in critical condition after sustaining burns to more than 10 percent of his body.

Around 16 minutes after arrival, Bell’s vibralert alarm when off, indicating he was low on air. Moree told Bell that they needed to evacuate the building, according to the report. Moree followed the hose line back towards the door when he realized Bell was not behind him.

"He went back to the pipe or the end of the hose line, was not able to find him, and then exited the building assuming that he had gotten out. And obviously he was incorrect in that assumption,” Brady said.

At that point, Moree transmitted a mayday call. More than eight minutes passed between the mayday call and when a team was deployed into the structure to locate Bell.

Bell died as a result of asphyxia, according to the Chief Medical Examiners office. Friday, Brady announced that Firefighter Bell became entangled in a piece of furniture while crews were ordered to evacuate, and he was not able to escape. This happened after gases built up in the attic of the structure and crews determined they needed to get out.

Bell was found unconscious, with his leg “entangled in a piece of wrought iron furniture.” The team disentangled him and he was brought to the hospital, where he was declared dead in the line of duty. Bell died as a result of asphyxia, according to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office.

For more stories on Firefighter Kevin Bell, go here.

Meanwhile, Jason Martinez, who was the most seriously injured of the other firefighters, spent weeks in critical condition after sustaining burns to more than 10 percent of his body.

Officials said in their report there are 22 conclusions, or items of concern, to take away from the report. There are also 19 recommendations to improve safety and efficiency. They said many of the issues have already been addressed or are currently being addressed. Many of those recommendations include more training and improving equipment, including hoods, helmets, chinstraps, thermal-imaging cameras, and microphones.

There have been 122 fires since the October 7 blaze, according to Assistant Chief Brady.