The firefighting career of retiring Hartford Fire Chief Edward Casares, Jr. came full circle on Monday afternoon.
Casares joined the fire department as a result of reforms instituted in the wake of the tragic death of Julio Lozada in 1979. On his last day of work on Monday, June 10, Casares unveiled a plaque to Lozada at the entrance to the new Hartford Public Safety Complex on High Street. The plaque honors Lozada as “The boy who transformed public safety in the city of Hartford.”
Lozada was only 12-years-old when he passed away on May 16, 1979. He and three friends were playing in an abandoned garage in Hartford’s Clay Hill neighborhood when the building suddenly collapsed. Lozada’s three friends escaped but he was trapped in the wreckage.
Hartford firefighters responding to the scene were unable to find Lozada. Local residents continued to search for Lozada and firefighters returned to the scene a half hour later. Unfortunately, none of the firefighters could speak Spanish and none of the residents could speak English, hindering the search. Lozada’s was eventually found alive, but he later died of his injuries at Saint Francis Hospital.
The community was outraged by Lozada’s tragic and unnecessary death. As a result, the City of Hartford directed the Fire Department to immediately hire a new class of Spanish-speaking recruits. Among the new firefighters were Casares and Carlos Huertas, now Assistant Chief.
Following Lozada’s death, his mother strived to keep his memory alive. When she too passed away, Julio’s family, led by his sister Mayra, took up the cause. As a result, youngsters like Julio can now apply for the Julio Lozada Scholarship, which was set up by the family and the Hartford Latino Fire-Fighters Association.
Hispanic students who reside in Hartford and have graduated from the Hartford Public School system are eligible to apply for the Julio Lozada Scholarship, which provides $1,000 each to two students annually. The deadline to apply for the scholarship is June 30. The Julio Lozada Scholarship recognizes students who balance academic achievement with part or full-time employment and community involvement. Students must have a GPA?of 2.5 or better and demonstrate financial need. Two letters of recommendation must also be submitted. In addition, the student is allowed to write a brief essay (200 words) on their academic goals.
Applications can be picked up at the Financial Aid Office, Capital Community College, 950 Main Street, Downtown Hartford. For more information, e-mail to: CAemail@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.