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Hartford Plaque Honors Fire Victim, Celebrates Diversity

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Julio C. Lozada was killed following injuries sustained in a fire May 16, 1979. Firefighters failed to rescue Lozada fast enough, due to their inability to understand pleas from Spanish-speaking residents. (Photo Courtesy City of Hartford).

Julio C. Lozada was killed following injuries sustained in a fire May 16, 1979. Firefighters failed to rescue Lozada fast enough, due to their inability to understand pleas from Spanish-speaking residents. (Photo Courtesy City of Hartford).

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The City of Hartford will unveil a plaque on Hartford’s Public Safety Complex Monday, honoring a fire victim and celebrating the city’s efforts to promote a more diverse fire department.

Mayor Pedro E. Segarra and Fire Chief Edward Casares, Jr. will unveil the plaque in honor of Julio C. Lozada, a 12-year-old  who died from injuries sustained in a building collapse  in Hartford’s Clay-Arsenal neighborhood May 16, 1979.

Lozada’s death was attributed in part to a language barrier. After  the collapse, Lozada was trapped under rubble and  was not immediately found by firefighters for a period of time. By the time he was rescued, he had sustained fatal injuries and died at a hospital soon after.

City officials say that none of the city’s firefighters spoke Spanish in 1979, which was a factor that attributed to Lozada’s death after rescuers could not understand neighbor’s pleas that Lozada was still trapped.

Since that time, the city has sought to transform public safety, including  establishing a stronger commitment to diversity, which has included efforts to hire more Spanish-speaking firefighters.

The city decided to honor Lozada now, 34 years after the collapse, to coincide with the current fire chief’s plans to retire this month. Casares, who has been with the department for 33 years, was one of the city’s first Latino firefighters and played a key role in combating the department’s language barrier.

Casares say he hopes the  plaque will honor Lozada’s life, as well as celebrate the strides that the department has made over the last few decades.

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