Local News
4:00 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Back Bay Firehouse Becomes Memorial To Fallen Firefighters

A firefighters union in town coincidentally paid tribute a the Boylston Street firehouse Wednesday.
A firefighters union in town coincidentally paid tribute a the Boylston Street firehouse Wednesday.
Credit Anne Mostue / WGBH News

It was one of the worst fires in recent memory on one of the windiest days of the year.

Lieutenant Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy both died after battling the flames that broke out in the basement of 298 Beacon St. just after 2:30 p.m. The fire spread upward, fanned by wind gusts blowing around 40 miles per hour.

Emily Kaiser, a teacher at The Newman School just a block away, said she smelled smoke as she was dismissing her students from school. She and other teachers watched from their building.

“There was a fireman trapped and he was really badly burned," Kaiser said. "All the tenants got out, everybody who lived there got out safely. But several firemen were badly burned from what I could tell.”

'You can't imagine what they go through, and their families. To hear that three little kids lost their daddy today is really sad, and it could have been anyone, and they were doing something that a lot of us couldn't do.'

As it turned out, both Walsh and Kennedy were trapped in the basement. Thirteen other firefighters were injured, suffering burns and other non-life-threatening injuries. Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said more than 150 responders were working to contain the fire.

“Typically, these buildings have brick firewalls that keep the fire from spreading from townhouse to townhouse," MacDonald said. "It appears that’s the case here."

It’s not clear whether any residents were injured or taken to hospitals. Massachusetts General Hospital confirmed that they’re treating at least two firefighters; and police, fire and ambulance vehicles streamed in and out of the emergency entrance throughout the evening.

About two miles away, at the Back Bay firehouse, flowers piled up outside the glass garage doors. Grace Clarke, a local college student, said she brought a bouquet in honor of her father, who was a firefighter.

Flowers were left at the firehouse on the corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets.
Flowers were left at the firehouse on the corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets.
Credit Anne Mostue / WGBH News

“You can’t imagine what they go through, and their families," Clarke said. "To hear that three little kids lost their daddy today is really sad, and it could have been anyone and they were doing something that a lot of us couldn’t do. So it takes a lot of respect.”

Inside the firehouse, a dozen or so firefighters were embracing, but avoiding eye contact with those outside. In a strange coincidence - the International Association of Firefighters is in town this week for a burn conference. About 30 of them came to the fire house and gave a salute outside the building.

Authorities said the fire was still burning after dark in parts of the building, and that firefighters would work through the night to put out any remaining flames. With the investigation still ongoing, they did say they had no reason to believe the fire was suspicious.