Boston Mourns 2 Firefighters Killed in Blaze

The Associated Press

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Boston residents mourned the deaths of two firefighters who were killed
when a fire driven by strong winds whipped through a brownstone and
trapped them in the basement in a neighborhood just blocks from where
nine city firefighters died in a 1972 hotel collapse.

Tributes poured in Wednesday for Lt. Edward J. Walsh, a 43-year-old
father of three who had almost a decade of experience, and firefighter
Michael R. Kennedy, a 33-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran who had
been a firefighter for more than six years.

Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the blaze in the city's Back
Bay district, and several police officers also were taken to hospitals.
Some residents were rescued from the upper floors of the four-story
apartment building, but none was hurt, city officials said.

“Today's a sad day for the city of Boston,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. “We lost two heroes here today.”

Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn said the 9-alarm fire, which sent smoke
and flames pouring from the roof and windows of the brownstone, appeared
to have started in the basement but moved quickly throughout the
building. The cause wasn't known, but he said all indications are that
it was accidental and that it was the wind that caused the fire to
spread through the building so quickly. Firewalls stopped the fire from
consuming adjacent buildings.

“In 30 years I've never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that
quickly and create such havoc in such a short period of time,” he said.

Finn said Walsh and Kennedy had gone down inside stairs into the
basement, and he assumed that a front window broke out and blew the fire
back at them. They called a mayday within two or three minutes of
entering the building.

Kennedy was found about 30 minutes later and was pulled from the
building but was pronounced dead at a hospital. Walsh's body was
recovered later and was removed in what fire department spokesman Steve
MacDonald described as “a very solemn ceremony,” in which he was carried
on a stretcher out the back of the building through a line of saluting
firefighters.

Some of the other firefighters were injured when they were blown down
stairs by a backdraft explosion caused by the wind, Finn said.

The fire, which began shortly before 3 p.m., was under control late
Wednesday night but firefighters stayed at the site overnight to
extinguish any remaining flames.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley assigned a prosecutor
trained to investigate fatal fires to work with fire and police, a probe
he said is standard procedure when there is an unattended or unnatural
death.

The DA's office said the two firefighters died a few blocks from the
former Hotel Vendome, where nine Boston firefighters were killed in June
1972 when a section of the building collapsed following a fire. A
memorial to those men is now located in the neighborhood.

Condolences filled the Boston Fire Department's Twitter page from city
residents, officials, police and other fire departments — some as far
away as Sioux City, Iowa.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley offered prayers “for God's gift of peace for
all impacted by this devastating loss,” and New England Patriots
quarterback Tom Brady, who lives in the Back Bay, extended “deepest
sympathies and condolences” to the fire department and families “of our
brave and selfless firefighters who gave their lives for our protection
and safety today.”