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‘Extraordinary Event’ In Basement Sparked Fatal Beacon Street Fire

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Beacon Street Fire

 

BOSTON (CBS/AP) – There’s no official word yet on what caused the fire that killed two Boston firefighters Wednesday, but an official said it was an “extraordinary event” in the basement of the brownstone.

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, both died in the fire on Beacon Street.

Boston Firefighter Michael Kennedy (left) and Lt. Edward Walsh. (Photos courtesy: Facebook-Boston Fire Dept.)

Boston Firefighter Michael Kennedy (left) and Lt. Edward Walsh. (Photos courtesy: Facebook-Boston Fire Dept.)

Steve MacDonald, a Boston Fire Department spokesman, told reporters Thursday “nothing has been ruled in or out” and investigators are focusing on the building’s basement and “some kind of extraordinary event” that happened there.

“Something happened to have them call a ‘mayday’ and the end result was we had two firefighters killed,” MacDonald said.

The back side of the Beacon Street brownstone the day after the fatal fire there. (WBZ-TV)

The back side of the Beacon Street brownstone the day after the fatal fire there. (WBZ-TV)

WBZ-TV has learned the fire may have started at a heating unit on that level.

MacDonald said the fire was fueled by high winds coming off the Charles River at speeds that are “more than we’re used to.” In fact, MacDonald said the wind was so strong it blew his helmet off.

There was no sprinkler system in the brownstone, but it was not required to have them based on the building’s age and type.

Boston Police and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office are also working on the investigation.

MacDonald said a board of injury made up of chiefs that did not work the fire will conduct their own probe and that report would take “several months.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports

No dates have been set yet for funerals for Walsh and Kennedy.

The firefighters union will make those arrangements with their families.

State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan offered condolences to the families and Boston firefighters in this statement Thursday:

“Firefighters constantly train, improve firefighting tactics and the equipment and technology used to minimize the danger of the profession. Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job but we are never prepared for the shock and anguish when the ultimate sacrifice is made. The death or serious injury of a family member, friend or colleague is tragic. These firefighters died serving others and protecting their community. Our hearts are heavy with sorrow at this loss.”

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports


Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the fire, 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, officials said.

MacDonald said several firefighters remained hospitalized Thursday but he wasn’t sure how many.

Danger Of Backdrafts

As the investigation into the devastating Beacon Street Fire goes on, authorities say a possible backdraft may have led to the tragic deaths Kennedy and Walsh.

“It’s an explosive force,” said Donald Bliss, Vice President of the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy and former state fire marshal in New Hampshire.

WBZ-TV’s Michael Rosenfield reports

He says backdrafts are intense quick and violent.

“It doesn’t happen in every fire,” said Bliss.

Documents obtained by WBZ-TV show an elevator was built into the building in the 1990’s and while Bliss says a vertical shaft may have contributed to spreading the fire, it likely did not play a part in a backdraft, which typically takes place when there’s a sudden rush of oxygen into an oxygen-depleted room.

Memorial Fund

A Lieutenant Walsh – Firefighter Kennedy Memorial Fund has been established.

Donations will be accepted by mail by sending a check to:

Lieutenant Walsh – Firefighter Kennedy Memorial Fund
Boston Firefighters Credit Union
60 Hallet Street
Dorchester, MA 02124

Credit card donations will also be accepted on BOSFIRECU.COM

WBZ-TV’s Michael Rosenfield contributed to this report

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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