A raging 9-alarm fire in Boston claimed the lives of two heroic firefighters on Wednesday.
Thirteen other firefighters were hospitalized.
Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, both of Engine 33, Ladder 15, died battling a blaze that started in the basement of a residential building at 298 Beacon Street in the city's Back Bay neighborhood.
Kennedy, 33, was a Marine Corps combat veteran and had been with the Fire Department for six years.
Walsh, 43, was married with three young children. He had close to 10 years of firefighting experience.
Engine 33 is stationed at 941 Boylston Street, a few short blocks from where the marathon bombings occurred last year. The Boston Globe reports that Kennedy helped in the immediate aftermath of that cruel tragedy.
At a press conference on Wednesday night, Boston’s Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn described the fire as “a blowtorch,” spurred on by the strong winds blowing off the nearby Charles River.
“In 30 years I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast, and it was wind-driven off the Charles,” he said.
The fire began in the basement of the building, a four-storey brownstone. It was first reported at 2:45 pm. The cause is still unknown, but it is not thought to be suspicious.
Kennedy and Walsh were among two of the first unit to arrive at the scene, which eventually drew 150 fire fighters. They charged into the building’s basement to confront the flames, but were soon trapped by the heat and smoke and issued a mayday call.
They were pulled out of the basement by their fellow firefighters. Walsh was pronounced dead at the scene. Kennedy, who was alive but severely injured, was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he died a short time later.
Walsh was taken out of the building on a stretcher as a line of distraught firefighters stood to attention.
“Everyone saluted him, and Eddie was taken for his last ride,” said Steve MacDonald, a Boston Fire Department spokesman. Thirteen other firefighters were injured, many with burns but the injuries were not said to be life-threatening.
When other firefighters discovered two men were missing they tried to get back into the building
“No companies should be going in anywhere; stay away from the building,” firefighters were instructed in the mayday call.
“We are aware of the potential we see in front of us; we’re going back inside the building,” came the reply.
But the firefighters were told, “Stay out of the building.”
Hailing their bravery he said, “Words cannot do justice to the grief that we feel tonight. Our hearts are heavy with the knowledge that these brave men gave their lives to protect the safety of our city and its people.
“The men and women of the Boston Fire Department are the brave heroes who run towards the danger when others run away. A day like today makes us all too aware of what they are risking in the course of doing their jobs. They are heroes simply by virtue of accepting this duty. They put themselves in harm’s way so that others might be safe.
The building continued to smolder late into the night as firefighters worked to extinguish persistent flames in parts of the building. All residents survived and have been accounted for.
Cardinal Sean O’Malley also prayed for the men “Tonight we pray for the repose of the souls of Lieutenant Walsh and Firefighter Kennedy , for the consolation of their families and loved ones, and for God’s gift of peace for all impacted by this devastating loss.”
Boston Fire Deputy Chief Joseph Finn and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh speak about the fire: