HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — With the sound of drums and bagpipes filling the air, and hundreds of firefighters from Connecticut and the country saluting, Engine 16 arrived at First Cathedral Church in Bloomfield for the funeral service for Firefighter Kevin Bell.
“The loss of a firefighter in fire combat will never be forgotten,” Fire Chief Carlos Huertas said during the funeral service. “Let us embrace the great qualities Kevin possessed as our own, so his legacy can live forever in the hearts and our minds.”
“Forever a firefighter for the rest of eternity in the service of the Lord — that is Kevin Bell since he paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting the citizens of the city of Hartford,” Local 760 President Vincent Fusco said.
Bell died in the line of duty on October 7, fighting a house fire just blocks from the Blue Hills fire station where he worked.
Family members got words of condolence from dignitaries including Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman during calling hours. Firefighters marched past the open casket giving Bell a salute. His nephew Shaun Bell Junior read aloud cards he received from his 5th grade classmates.
“The men in his department have truly lost a hero, please take time to heal and I will help you as much as possible,” said Bell Junior.
Bell’s brother talked about Kevin’s other passion of hip-hop music and the joy he brought to others as a DJ. He told mourners that even from the after-life, his brother spoke to him yesterday.
“Stroh said… ‘smooth, I’m good, I got this, I dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, I’m moving to a better heaving, I’m rocking the heavens right now,” said Shawn Bell.
And retired Hartord Fire chief Charles Teale, Kevin’s uncle and one of his inspirations also spoke.
“I swore him in as a member of the Hartford Fire Department, but I knew he would go on to be much more and he did he became a hero,” said Teale.
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra spoke of how Bell’s passing has touched an entire city.
“Today we join together to honor and mourn the loss of one of our own,” Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said in a statement before the service Monday morning. “He lost his life so that others could be saved. For that he will always be a Hartford hero and will not be forgotten.” The mayor spoke later at the service, calling Bell “a very special person.”
Thousands of firefighters from across the region said a final farewell at the funeral. Police escorts brought in hundreds of bus loads of firefighters. Thousands then lined up, standing at attention as a flag draped coffin on top of Engine 16 drove to the memorial service. The coffin drifted by on a ocean of blue as firefighters stood at attention. Many never met firefighter Bell, but they knew who he was.
“Once you work this job, there is no better job in the world, and I’m sure he found that out pretty quickly. That is probably why he pursued it, my guess is he enjoyed very day going to work,” said Steve McDonald, Boston PD.
While the service was going on inside, outside the blue wall wrapped around the church with firefighters from as far away as Michigan. They have lost friends too and they just got in the car and drove.
“We lost Walter Harris in 2004, in Detroit and the support from all our brothers and sisters that showed up from all over the country was amazing,” said Mike Olear, Detroit.
“When we had our tragedy, one of the ways you were able to get through it was having thousands of brothers and sisters coming to support you,” said Lt. Paul Larochelle, Wooster FD.
The cause of Tuesday night’s fire is still under investigation. Those who lived in the house were able to get out safely.
Mayor Segarra said he has submitted a resolution to the City Council to rename the Engine Company 16 station to “Kevin Lamont Bell Fire Station.” The council could take up the resolution at its next meeting scheduled for Tuesday night.
By order of Gov. Malloy flags have been at half-staff since Bell’s death. They will return to full staff tonight.
Crews from other Connecticut fire departments covered shifts in Hartford so firefighters could attend the funeral.
A fund has been set up to help the Bell family. You can send your donations to care-of “Hartford Firefighters Survivors’ Fund” at Farmington Bank at 669 Hebron Avenue in Glastonbury, CT.