Secret recordings reveal safety concerns in Hartford Fire Department

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HARTFORD – In secret audio recordings obtained exclusively by Fox CT, Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas reveals concerns with a lack of resources and cooperation with City Hall during an hour-long conversation with Deputy Chief Dan Nolan.

“There's so much s--- I want to change. I got a list that you wouldn't believe. And, I'll tell you right now, I'll present it to the mayor and the council and they're going to say no f------ way in hell,” Huertas said in the profanity-laced dialogue.

In the recording, Huertas references an issue with building inspections in the city. He tells Nolan that he and Deputy Chief Roger Martin, the fire marshal, have been vocal that buildings are not being inspected, presenting a possible safety hazard.

Here is part of the recording. Warning: strong language has been eliminated, but the audio may offend some viewers.

“He says to me, 'how many buildings in the city are we mandated to inspect?' I go, 'I brought Roger with me.' He goes, 'all of them are mandated'. I go, 'how many of those buildings are being done? Roger, give them the answer.' He goes, '3 percent.' He says '97 percent of the buildings aren't being inspected? So, how many people do I need to get it done?' I go, 'you need about 20 inspectors.'”

In April, a Fox CT investigation revealed that of the approximately 9,600 hundred buildings that needed to be inspected by the Hartford fire marshal and his office annually, only 744 actually were last year. Deputy Chief Martin said that his office is grossly understaffed.

"There's 13,000 activities annually for at least 6 people. It doesn't get done,” Martin said.

City councilman and chair of the Public Safety Committee, Kyle Anderson, told Fox CT that the issue had just come to his attention.

"From my understanding, this is something that predates me in this office and it was not addressed. I don't know why, don't want to point fingers, but since I know about it now my oath of obligation to the city of Hartford, I have to stand up and do what I can do for it,” Anderson said.

But in the recording, Huertas talks about liability related to the uninspected buildings.

“Neither you or me are going to take a hit for this f------ city” Huertas, said referring to Martin. “I said, Roger, we got to put it out there that you don't have enough inspectors.”

Huertas also talks about the city's budget and an expectation that he will not receive the resources he needs.

"We just did the budget, I'm asking for everything and anything. Let them tell me they don't want it. So, when the s--- hits the fan and something's not right, I'm going to say, you're the f----- people who took it away from me. What do you want from me? It's like a chess game."

In response to the story, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra sent a statement:

This is more about an old quarrel and personality conflict between people who are no longer with us. We need to move away from this historical negativity and leave the juvenile finger pointing in the past. We are well aware of the issues that have plagued the department in the past and have taken actions to correct them. This is not the same department it was a year ago. We are moving forward quickly in new direction. It would be inappropriate to speak specifically about any past issues as some individuals have ongoing litigation with the city. I’ll gladly speak about some of the great things we’re doing to move forward.

Chief Carlos Huertas also released a statement:

There is always a need for more money and resources and every fire department faces financial challenges, especially those in urban environments. The mayor and City Council have been sensitive to the requirements of the Hartford Fire Department and continue to work with us to improve the Department’s ability to protect our families, residents and visitors and have since authorized the hiring of a new Assistant Fire Chief and nine additional positions in the Fire Prevention Bureau which will be filled once the promotional process is completed.

Councilman Kyle Anderson did not return requests for a comment.

For our full coverage of the issues plaguing the Hartford Fire Department over the past year, click here.