Remembering the Tragic Event
March 26, 2020 marked the 6th Anniversary of the Line of Duty Deaths of Boston Fire Lieutenant Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy. These firefighters died in the performance of their duties at a 9-Alarm fire at 298 Beacon Street, a Brownstone in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. An additional thirteen firefighters suffered non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the fire.
Lt. Edward Walsh was a Watertown, MA native and a second-generation firefighter, following in his father’s footsteps. Lt. Walsh was a 10-year veteran of the Boston Fire Department having been appointed in 2004 and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 2012. Lt. Walsh is survived by his wife and three children.
Firefighter Michael Kennedy was a U.S. Marine and Iraq War Veteran prior to joining the ranks of the Boston Fire Department. Firefighter Kennedy spent his time volunteering with numerous organizations including the Boston Burn Foundation, Wounded Warriors, Home for Our Troops, and Mass Fallen Heroes, as was well volunteering as a “Big Brother.” Firefighter Kennedy is survived by his father, mother, and step-father.
The cause of the fire was determined to be non-permitted & careless performance of hot work operations at a construction site.
Nothing about this fire was ordinary; Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn (Ret.) stated “In 30 years, I’ve never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quick, and create such havoc, in such a short period of time.” Strong winds fueled extreme fire conditions which resulted in the fire hose used by Lt. Walsh and FF Kennedy burning through, leaving them trapped by the fire in the basement without water. Firefighters fought valiantly to control the fire while simultaneously attempting to rescue their colleagues.
Resulting Changes in Regulation, Enforcement, and Certification.
The subsequent response to this fire has not been ordinary, either. It is all too often that fires occur where “lessons learned” are forgotten or are not acted upon. In the 6 years following this fire, significant advancements have been and continue to be made in the following areas:
- Fire Hose Research: Efforts lead by The Last Call Foundation, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Fire Protection Research Foundation, and the Boston Fire Department, amongst others, continue to evaluate the performance of fire hoses. These efforts include performance testing of existing hoses and researching potential materials for use in fire hose construction. NFPA 1961, Standard for Fire Hose, was also changed to require hose manufacturers to test new fire hose for radiant and conductive heat resistance.
- Construction Fire Safety: In 2015, with the adoption of an amended version of NFPA 1 as the Massachusetts State Fire Prevention Code, the City of Boston continued to require comprehensive Construction Fire Safety Plans as a condition of obtaining a building permit application. This was followed with subsequent enforcement by way of periodic inspections completed by Boston Fire and Inspectional Service Department officials. This approach was quickly adopted by surrounding metro-Boston cities and towns with continued widespread enforcement across the Commonwealth.
- Hot Work Safety Requirements: In January of 2017, the City of Boston required any individual applying for a hot work permit to first obtain a Hot Work Safety Certificate and all persons performing hot work onsite to possess the same certificate. Subsequently, Massachusetts implemented a statewide requirement in July of 2018 requiring that persons performing, permitting, or overseeing hot work operations to attend a state-approved hot work safety training.
For those interested, below please find links to non-profit charity organizations started the families of these firefighters: