Two veteran Boston firefighters, one a father of three and the other a combat Marine veteran, died when they became trapped by a massive fire that tore through a Back Bay brownstone Wednesday afternoon.[embedgallery id=395996]
Lt. Edward J. Walsh, 43, of Engine 33 and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, of Ladder 15 were both trapped in the building’s basement, officials said.
Walsh, of West Roxbury, was married with three children under the age of 10 and had been an employee of the Boston Fire Department for nine and a half years.
Kennedy, 33, of Hyde Park, was a single, combat Marine veteran, who had been with the department for six and a half years.
“Today is a sad day for the city of Boston. We lost two heroes here today,” said Mayor Marty Walsh.
The men were among the first on scene to the fire that broke out at 2:43 p.m. at 298 Beacon St., which fire officials described as a four-story brownstone building. It appears the fire started in the basement of the building. It then raged up the brick building to the top floor, where flames shot from the roof.
The fire reached nine alarms, which is the highest level of response for the Boston Fire Department. More than 150 firefighters and more than two dozen fire trucks from all across the city responded to the scene.
“Thirty years, I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast and escalate that quickly and create such havoc in such a short period of time, ” said Deputy Fire Chief Joe Finn, who added that he believed the strong winds helped the fire rage through the building.
The men were among the first to respond to the scene, and made their way into the basement where it is thought the fire originated, said Finn, the incident commander. Within two or three minutes they became trapped and issued a mayday call.
Officials said 13 other fire fighters were injured, and all suffered from burns and broken bones.
Boston Fire Department Spokesman Steve MacDonald said that people were home at the time of the fire, but they made it out through a rear fire escape.
The intensity of the fire led incident commanders to order everyone out of the building. For hours firefighters were only able to fight the flames from the outside of the building where cold temperatures and strong winds added to the difficulty of putting out the fire. Smoke filled the air around many Back Bay streets well into the night.
The last line-of-duty death occurred in 2009 when Lt. Kevin Kelley was killed when a fire truck crashed into a wall after failing to brake while traveling down a steep street on Mission Hill.
Walsh came from a fire fighting family. His late father and late uncle, as well as his cousin served on the Watertown Fire Department.
Kennedy was a board member of the Boston Firefighters Burn foundation, which volunteers with burn patients.
Local 718 President Richard Paris said the men were “two great firefighters.”
At their firehouse on Boylston Street, the flag was lowered to half staff and flowers had been placed against the wall.
Follow Michael Naughton on Twitter @metrobosmike.