"We lost one of our own so others would be saved. He is a hero who lost his life through heroic efforts to save others," Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, who was visibly shaken, said during a late Tuesday night press conference.
Bell, who is six-year veteran of the Hartford Fire Department, was born and raised in the capital city. He was a member of Engine 16, where black bunting now hangs.
The Hartford Fire Fighters Association said Bell was advancing an attack line in efforts to extinguish the working fire when he suffered critical injuries and was removed from the building in cardiac arrest.
"All efforts were made to revive Brother Bell, but unfortunately these efforts were unsuccessful and he was declared deceased at St. Francis Hospital," the association said in a statement.
Bell was called an excellent firefighter by his relatives. They said he was very considerate and not only cared about his job, but fellow firefighters as well.
"Firefighter Kevin Bell represents and embodies the best in all of us. He made the ultimate sacrifice and we honor you," said Hartford Fire Chief Carlos Huertas at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. "The pain and anguish in the loss of one of our firefighters is beyond measurable."
Bell is the second cousin of retired Hartford Fire Chief Charlie Teale.
"He turned out to be a very enthusiastic, energetic individual and he remained that way even after I retired, so that was comforting," Teale said.
Teale said he hired Bell and said his commitment to his job and the community were remarkable.
"He had that love and appreciation for all people in the community he lived in, so I saw that more than I did anything else," Teale added.
Kevin Bell was a loving husband of Wayette and the father of a daughter, Raquel.
"He was a hands-on father. Raquel, from the day she was born, had the best of everything. Underlying love for Wayette and the whole family. The type of father we need. (He was) very committed," said his brother Shawn Bell.
Kevin Bell was also known as Kutmaster B-stro and posted videos of himself as a DJ on YouTube. His brother also said he enjoyed playing football and sports were his first love.
"His death is a loss to the community," Shawn Bell said. "He was elated at the fact that he was becoming a fireman. He wanted to be chief. He loved his job."
Firefighter Jason Martinez, from Manchester, suffered burns on 10 percent of his body and was taken to the Bridgeport burn unit. He has been with the fire department since 2007. Two other firefighters were also injured and have been identified as Kevin Burke, 51, of Engine 5 and Colin McWeeny of Engine 14.
"This tragedy has severely impacted our fire department," Segarra added.
The devastating loss is the first line of duty death in 40 years, and the last line of duty death in Hartford was Tommy Fischer in 1974.
The fire also left two families without a home.
"I saw smoke billowing out of the top of the house,” said Kerry Williams, a relative of the victim. “It looked like my mother's house and I was like ‘oh my God, my mother's house is on fire,' and sure enough it was."
Williams said when he spoke with his mother over the phone last night, she was so distraught he couldn't even make out her words.
Eyewitnesses told Eyewitness News that they are still in disbelief.
"I just saw the homeowner a few minutes ago,” Sam Russell, of Bloomfield, said. "He's totally shaken, so it's sad something like this happened.”
“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. Governor Nancy Wyman said in a joint statement on Wednesday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the hero we lost and those who were injured in the line of duty in our capital city.”
Segarra said a critical incident stress team has been deployed to help the first responders struggling with the loss.
Many came to pay their respects on Wednesday, including members of the Blue Hills Fire Department in Bloomfield. They stopped by Engine Company 16 in Hartford with flowers and their condolences.
"Something like that really hurts everyone in the neighborhood,” Russell said.
The city weeps once again for its firefighters and this family.
"Families are grieving; we are grieving along with them,” Segarra said.
Blue Hills Avenue, which is also known as Route 187, reopened on Wednesday afternoon after being closed for more than 20 hours.
As for the cause of the fire, the state fire marshal's office is assisting with the investigation. Funeral arrangements have not yet been released.
Community remembers victim
There are many heavy hearts in Hartford, and surrounding communities after the loss of a firefighter, and some are finding unique ways to honor Kevin Bell's legacy.
Bell's remains were brought to All Faith Chapel in South Windsor on Wednesday evening, and dozens of firefighters saluted his body as it was escorted.
"I heard his name for the first time today and after looking into him and what he's done for our city, I had to make recognition and make sure people knew what type of hero he is," said Bill Madina, who developed a mobile billboard tribute in Bell's honor.
It is normally reserved to help people find work but Madina hopes it will instead help people heal.
"The main reason why I did it is to uplift the fire department and uplift the family, to give them something to smile about," Madina added.
Neighbors and well-wishers have left flowers on the front step of Engine Company 16, and others have comforted Bell's fellow comrades by stopping by and offering their condolences.
"A lot of people don't know who he is and what he did. He's a true hero," Madina added.
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