When routine turned to crisis

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In the hours before they died, the lives of Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Michael R. Kennedy could not have been any more ordinary. They raced to a false alarm in the Back Bay. They made a supermarket run with two other firefighters to the nearby Shaw’s to pick up chicken breasts and thighs for their next meal. Kennedy lazed on a black couch in the upstairs TV room playing video games on his phone while haranguing a station mate trying to watch a movie.

There was one notable, though perhaps not unusual, element to the day: the relentless wind, which blew so hard that the firetruck heaved as Walsh and firefighter Dennis Keith waited outside the grocery during the shopping trip.

“If we get a fire today,” Walsh said to Keith, “it’s going to be something else.”

“Eddie,” Keith replied, “don’t mention that F word. We don’t want that crap today.”

At 2:42 p.m., someone dialed 911 and reported smoke in a brick apartment building.

Over the roar of the truck as it raced down Boylston Street, Eric Evans behind the wheel, Keith called out to Kennedy, “Mike, what do you want to do? Do you want to grab the hydrant or the pipe?”

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