Two firefighters were killed in a 9-alarm Back Bay blaze that was “like a blowtorch,” Boston Fire Department officials confirmed during a press conference on Wednesday night.
Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy were both working to battle the flames in the basement at 298 Beacon St., near the intersection of Beacon and Exeter.
Kennedy, an unmarried 33-year-old who lived in Hyde Park and had over six years of firefighting experience, was recovered alive but with severe injuries, officials said. He was immediately transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Walsh, a 43-year-old from West Roxbury, was married and had three children under the age of 10. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and had over nine years of firefighting experience.
Both firefighters worked out of the Engine 33, Ladder 15 firehouse located at the corner of Boylston and Hereford Streets, less than a mile from the scene of the fire.
Officials were visibly shaken as they discussed the two fallen firefighters.
“We lost two heroes here today,” Boston Mayor Martin Walsh said. “Today is just a sad day in the city of Boston.”
Richard Paris, the president of the Firefighters Local Union 718, said he knew both men and was proud of them.
“Two great firefighters. All those firefighters that worked there today—people were saved for their actions that they did in this fire today. Citizens were saved,” Paris said. “And that’s what we do. We sacrifice our life for the citizens of the city of Boston.”
Many people reached out to express their condolences, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, who released a statement:
These brave men gave their lives in the line of duty, putting the public safety ahead of their own interests. As a community we come together in this time of loss, offering our support and our prayers to the Walsh and Kennedy families and their fellow firefighters
In addition to his comments at the press conference, Mayor Walsh later released a statement on the tragedy:
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.
Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the blaze. Boston Fire Deputy Chief Joseph Finn said the other injuries were not life-threatening and ranged from burns to musculoskeletal injuries.
Authorities said the fire was still burning as of Wednesday night in parts of the building, and that firefighters would work through the night to put out any remaining flames. With the investigation still ongoing, the building was not considered a total loss and nothing about the fire was suspicious, they said.
Finn said the blaze was “like a blowtorch” and that it was incredibly fast-moving. He added that he had never seen a fire spread so quickly in his 30 years of work with the department. He attributed the fire’s speed to the gusting wind coming off the Charles River, saying that the weather had a “dramatic impact.”
Officials said the last fire to cause multiple firefighter fatalities was a 2007 blaze in West Roxbury. That fire killed two veteran firemen and injured 12 others.