BOSTON (AP) — Employees and the owner of a welding company found responsible for a fire in a brownstone last year that killed two firefighters won't face criminal charges, investigators said Tuesday.
Criminal charges would have required proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the workers acted with conscious disregard of a known risk of death or serious injury, said Daniel Conley, Suffolk County district attorney.
"The investigation revealed actions that were irresponsible and even careless, but not willful, wanton, and reckless as our courts have defined those terms," Conley said in announcing the conclusion of a yearlong investigation into the blaze. "As a result, the facts, the evidence, and the current state of Massachusetts law do not support criminal charges."
The fire in the city's Back Bay neighborhood in March 2014 took the lives of Lt. Edward Walsh, 43, and firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33. They were trapped in the building's basement and died from smoke inhalation and burns.
Kennedy was a former Marine and volunteer for burn victims and for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Walsh was married with three children.
Investigators determined that the wind-whipped fire was started by welding sparks from work being done by two employees of D&J Ironworks of Malden without a permit at the building next door.
"At some point, the evidence suggests, either a spark from the cutting and grinding or liquid metal runoff from the welding traveled from the work space to a wooden shed that extended out from the rear" of the building that burned, Conley said. The shed was old and highly combustible.
The workers tried to put out the fire with snow and yelled out warnings to residents but did not call 911 because of poor cellphone reception.
The workers stayed at the scene, contrary to early reports that they drove away, Conley said.
D&J's owner, Giuseppe Falcone, who was not at the scene, has said the fire was an accident. He still faces several lawsuits.
"We are not celebrating," Falcone's attorney, Richard C. Bardi, said Tuesday. "We are relieved and grateful that the authorities conducted an independent investigation and came to the correct conclusion. Our thoughts and prayers have always been for the families of the fallen firefighters and for all of those affected by this tragic accident."
State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, along with the Boston firefighters' union and state firefighters' association, called for passage of legislation to establish a commission to study strengthening state regulations for welding and similar work, including stronger penalties for violations and training and certification.
Boston union president Rich Paris said six people survived the fire because of Walsh and Kennedy. "Their sacrifice will never be forgotten," he said. On behalf of the men's families, he thanked investigators and the people of Boston.
Mayor Marty Walsh said the fallen firefighters set an example to live by.
"Last year on Beacon Street, we saw what it means to be dedicated to public service, to community and to your neighbors," he said in a statement. "The memory and example of Lt. Ed Walsh and Fire Fighter Michael Kennedy will continue to inspire us and guide us."
Associated Press writer Sylvia Lee Wingfield contributed to this report.