2014 Boston Brownstone fire
Map of Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, and Beacon Street
|Date||March 26, 2014|
|Time||2:42 p.m.–6:43 p.m.|
|Location||298 Beacon Street, Back Bay, Boston, Massachusetts, United States|
The 2014 Boston Brownstone Fire was a nine-alarm fire that took place on March 26, 2014 at 2:42 p.m. in a four-story brick row house at 298 Beacon Street in the Back Bay of Boston. Two Boston Fire Department firefighters died fighting the blaze: Lt. Edward J. Walsh, 43, of West Roxbury, and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33, of Hyde Park. Lt. Walsh was from BFD Engine Co. 33 and FF. Kennedy was from BFD Ladder Co. 15. The fire also injured eighteen others, including thirteen firefighters. The fire was believed to have been started by welders working at a nearby iron railing. On June 9, 2014, a report was released concluding that Walsh and Kennedy's deaths were both accidental.
Firefighters responded at 2:42 p.m., where a fire was spreading upward from the basement fanned by winds traveling at 40 miles per hour. Deputy Fire Chief Joe Finn, the incident commander, reported that the bodies of two firefighters were found in the basement of the building. The fire company that both men were assigned to was the first to arrive at the scene. Firefighters then rushed in the building to rescue residents from the upper floors while Walsh and Kennedy ran with a hose down to the basement, where the fire was believed to have originated. The District Fire Chief in charge ordered a second alarm immediately.
A basement window had broken open and allowed high winds to further fuel the fire, which scorched at both men. Two to three minutes into the incident, the men placed a "Mayday" call over their radios signaling they were trapped. Despite rescue efforts, it took about half an hour to recover Kennedy, who was then transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Another 13 firefighters were injured during the search, though their injuries were not life-threatening. A small explosion knocked a number of firefighters down a staircase inside the row house, causing burns and musculoskeletal injuries. It took firefighters until the evening to recover Walsh, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Some of the apartments' residents were rescued from the top floor of the brownstone building, but none were hurt. The fire marks the first time a Boston firefighter has been killed on the job since 2009. Among those who witnessed the fire was Tom Brady, who decided to evacuate with his wife after watching it unfold from their neighboring home.
Below is a timeline of events that took place at the Brownstone Fire.
|02:42 p.m.||First alarm struck. Box 1579, Beacon St., and Exeter St. was struck by the BFD's Fire Alarm Office (FAO) for #298 Beacon St., located in the BFD's 4th Fire Response District. Engine Co. 33 was one of six fire companies to respond on the first alarm.|
|02:45 p.m.||Rapid Intervention and Fireground Rehabilitation fire companies are assigned to the fire.|
|02:48 p.m.||Second alarm struck for Box 1579 by the orders of Car 4 (District Chief Shafer of the 4th District).|
|02:50 p.m.||Mayday transmitted by Engine Co. 33.|
|02:52 p.m.||Car 3 (District Chief Mackin of the 3rd District) reports a back-draft.|
|02:53 p.m.||Third and fourth alarms struck for Box 1579 by the orders of Car 3 (District Chief Mackin of the 3rd District).|
|02:57 p.m.||Fifth alarm struck for Box 1579 by orders of C6 (Deputy Chief Finn of the 1st Division).|
|03:08 p.m.||Sixth and seventh alarms struck for Box 1579 by orders of C6 (Deputy Chief Finn of the 1st Division).|
|03:10 p.m.||One additional Engine Co. special called on the seventh alarm for Box 1579 by orders of C6 (Deputy Chief Finn of the 1st Division).|
|03:13 p.m.||Eighth and ninth alarms struck for Box 1579 by orders of C6 (Deputy Chief Finn of the 1st Division).|
|03:28 p.m.||One additional Ladder Co. special called on the ninth alarm for Box 1579 by orders of C6 (Deputy Chief Finn of the 1st Division).|
|03:49 p.m.||One additional Tower Ladder Co. special called on the ninth alarm for Box 1579 by orders of C6 (Deputy Chief Finn of the 1st Division).|
|04:31 p.m.||One additional Engine Co. special called on the ninth alarm for Box 1579 by orders of G1 (Deputy Chief Laizza of the Emergency Management Division).|
|07:40 a.m. (3/27)||All companies out.|
|06:43 p.m. (3/27)||Detail terminated.|
The firefighters died after the fire, aided by strong winds, trapped them in the basement of the brownstone and prevented their colleagues from rescuing them. It has also been suggested that the 45-mile-per-hour winds which helped fuel the fire also triggered an explosion, which also trapped them in the basement. The precise reason the firefighters died after getting trapped remains unknown, but one proposed scenario involves the fire burning through their hose line, cutting off their ability to fight the fire around them.
On April 4, a number of fire officials, including Boston Fire Commissioner John Hasson, blamed the fire on sparks originating from welding being done on a nearby iron railing. The welders, according to these officials, were operating without a permit and apparently tried to warn others after the fire started. However, the welders did not call 9-1-1, which prompted Ken Donnelly and other Massachusetts politicians to call for criminal charges to be brought against the welding company.
The funeral for Walsh was held on April 2, 2014, at St. Patrick's Church in Watertown, Massachusetts. Thousands of firefighters attended the service, as did Archbishop Sean O'Malley. Walsh was buried next to his father, also a former firefighter. Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, appeared at the funeral, and said, "We stand in awe of what he did last week." Edward Walsh's widow, Kristen, asked the Boston Fire Department to find her husband's wedding ring, which they were able to do, after which they gave it to her. Another funeral was held for Kennedy the following day, at Holy Name Church. Kennedy's cousin, Davin Patrick Kennedy, was among those who spoke at the service.
On April 22, the Boston Herald reported that Franklin Knotts, the property manager of the building where the fire killed the two firefighters (located at 298 Beacon Street), had filed an affidavit against D&J Iron Works, the Malden-based welding company whose employees had been blamed for starting the fire. In his affidavit, Knotts accused the employees working on the railing on an adjacent building (located on 296 Beacon Street) of driving away from the fire in their truck. The lawsuit itself was filed by Herbert Lerman, who is the executor of the estate of the building's owner, Michael J. Callahan. The supposed president of D&J Iron Works, Giuseppe Falcone, responded that this company does not exist and that he was therefore not responsible for the fire in any way.
A criminal investigation formally concluded in April 2015. No criminal charges were pressed against D&J Ironworks for the nine-alarm fire, and according to a statement from Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley, the yearlong in-depth investigation revealed that while carelessness caused a pair of welders to accidentally start the fire at 298 Beacon St. on March 26, 2014, their actions did not constitute reckless or knowing endangerment of human life - hence, no involuntary manslaughter charges. “We cannot in good faith seek criminal charges for an accident, even one with consequences so tragically devastating,” said Conley. “Some 60 years of Massachusetts jurisprudence have made clear that negligence, even gross negligence, is in the hands of our civil courts.” 
In March 2016, a report released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concluded that the Boston Fire Department was partly to blame for the deaths of Walsh and Kennedy.
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