HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut firefighter killed battling a house blaze in Hartford was remembered Wednesday as a six-year veteran of the department, loving husband and dedicated father of a teenage girl.
Kevin Bell, 48, died and three other firefighters were injured in the fire Tuesday evening in the city's North End. Officials said Bell was the first Hartford firefighter to die in the line of duty in 40 years.
"Firefighter Kevin Bell represents and embodies the best in all of us," Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas said Wednesday. "The pain and anguish in the loss of one of our firefighters is beyond measurable."
Huertas added, "He made the ultimate sacrifice without hesitation or reservation."
The fire broke out on the second floor of the house just before 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Everyone in the house at the time got out safely.
The cause remained under investigation Wednesday afternoon.
Firefighter Jason Martinez, 29, of Manchester, was in critical but stable condition in the burn treatment unit at Bridgeport Hospital. Two other firefighters, Colin McWeeny, 34, and Kevin Burke, 51, were discharged from a city hospital Wednesday.
Shawn Bell said his brother was athletic and once dreamed of being a running back in the NFL.
"But when you become an adult and it's time to start taking care of your family, you've got to pursue a career that will help you raise your family in comfortable way and that's what he did," Shawn Bell said. "His death is a loss to the community."
Kevin Bell lived in Hartford and worked for Engine Co. 16 in the Blue Hills neighborhood.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered all state and U.S. flags in Connecticut lowered to half-staff.
"Last night's tragic events are another reminder of the incredible sacrifice that our state's first responders make on a daily basis," Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said in a statement, calling Bell a hero.
The last Connecticut firefighter to die in the line of duty was New Britain Deputy Chief David Fiori, who suffered a heart attack last May, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Before Fiori, Easton fire Lt. Russell Neary was killed by a falling tree while clearing debris from a road during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.