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Building Design Cited in Deadly Fire

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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An old building design paired with 45 mph winds are thought to have fanned the spread of a nine-alarm brownstone fire that killed two firefighters and injured at least a dozen others in Boston.

Lt. Ed Walsh, 43, and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33, lost their lives battling the flames that quickly rolled through the four-story building about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday (March 26).

The two firefighters sent out a mayday call indicating that they may have been trapped in the building’s basement, where the fire is thought to have originated, reports say, citing authorities.

Boston Fire Department
Boston Fire Department

Firefighter Michael Kennedy (left), 33, and Lt. Ed Walsh, 43, died Wednesday (March 26) battling the flames of a nine-alarm fire in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood.

As many as 18 others, including police officers and other firefighters, were injured in the massive blaze in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, reports relate.

The building, owned by the executor of Michael J. Callahan’s estate, had eight apartment units, authorities said. All tenants were safe.

Cause under Investigation

Investigators were reportedly combing the charred scene Friday (March 28) to determine a cause.

Authorities are looking into the building’s furnace and electrical system, the Boston Herald reported.

They are also investigating whether the fire burned through the hose that Walsh and Kennedy carried into the building, according to the news bureau.

'Never Seen a Fire Travel That Fast'

“In 30 years, I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quickly, and create such havoc in such a short period of time,” Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn told reporters.

“The wind was blowing in off the Charles [River], it drove the fire and everything with it.”

Boston Fire Department
Boston Fire Department via Twitter

The fire is believed to have ignited in the brownstone's basement. The cause is under investigation.

On its Twitter page, the Boston Fire Department provided details about the fallen men.

Lt. Walsh, of West Roxbury, was a nine-year veteran with the fire department, and the son of a firefighter. He was married with two sons and a daughter, all under age 10.

Kennedy, of Hyde Park, was a six-year firefighter and a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  

Winds and Design to Blame?

Citing experts, the Boston Globe reported that the wind gusts of around 45 mph that afternoon “almost certainly created rapidly-changing and unpredictable conditions.”

In addition, the 19th-century structure’s balloon frame design could have created a “conduit for the fire to spread upward,” the Globe reported.

Boston Fire Department
Boston Fire Department via Twitter

The 19th century structure’s balloon frame design could have created a “conduit for the fire to spread upward,” the Boston Globe reported.

The design type features unobstructed chaseways that connect the basement to the attic that could have given the fire a vertical path, the news outlet said.

“The fire may start in a small area and be confined into a hidden space in the building and spread until it reaches a point that it breaks into an open area. At the point it does, it has quite a bit of intensity,” Ken Willette, of the public fire protection division at the National Fire Protection Association, told the Globe.

A memorial fund has been created to support the families of the firefighters. For more information, visit https://www.bosfirecu.com/.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Design; Fatalities; Fire; Health and safety

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