By David Wade

BOSTON (CBS) — It’s about as silent as an anniversary can be with no ceremony and no memorial. The day was marked only by anecdotes of the day an entire neighborhood almost burned to the ground.

One of the worst fires in Boston’s history, happened 50 years ago, Thursday, on Dorchester’s Bellflower Street.

The dry, windy weather, was the enemy of firefighters trying to contain what looked like hell on earth. Thirty-five homes were destroyed or damaged, many were hurt. Somehow, no one was killed.

John McColgan is the City Archivist, he preserves city artifacts like black and white photos of the fire. But, the memories are in color in his mind. He was a teenager who lived up the street.

“We saw the back of a triple-decker go up in a sheet of flame in seconds,” McColgan said.

Lt. Mike Walsh, a 41-year veteran of the Boston Fire Department, knows the numbers; 35 homes destroyed or damaged, most where an apartment building now sits.

But on the day of the conflagration, Walsh was a boy on a bike, racing from Southie to see.

He says he didn’t know he wanted to be a firefighter then.

“I probably wanted to play for the Red Sox,” he remembers.

Five decades later, a lot has changed. There were no smoke detectors back then. Sprinkler rules weren’t as strict and obviously there were no cell phones so communication wasn’t as good.

They say equipment is better and fire hydrant pressure has much improved. But old wood homes, packed tightly together can be a scary thing. It’s something folks on Bellflower Street learned 50 years ago.



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