Federal report faults Boston FD in firefighter deaths

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2016 12:15 PM

BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Fire Department's lack of training to fight wind-driven fires, inadequate staffing, and failure to adequately assess risk played a role in a blaze two years ago that claimed the lives of two firefighters, according to a federal report released Thursday.

The 77-page National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report pointed out several other factors that contributed to the deaths of Lt. Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy in March 2014, including a hose to the basement where they were trapped that burned through and therefore couldn't deliver water, and doors left open by escaping tenants and workers that allowed air to flow freely through the building.

"Due to a rapid progression of fire conditions, E33 hoseline is burned through and loses pressure," the report said. "The officer of E33 is unaware this has occurred. The water never reaches the nozzle."

The fire department also released a 218-page report compiled by its own Board of Inquiry that included photographs of Kennedy and Walsh's charred and melted helmets, boots, radios and other equipment.

Investigators have previously said that the fire in the four-story brownstone in the city's Back Bay neighborhood was caused by sparks from welders doing work on a building next door.

Both reports made several recommendations.

Among the federal report's 15 recommendations were the development of training and tactics for wind-driven fires and the adoption of higher capacity breathing apparatus.

The Board of Inquiry made several dozen recommendations, including establishing protocol for the use of thermal imaging cameras, development of training on how to fight wind-driven fires, and a strengthening of department accountability and communications practices.

Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn, who was incident commander that day, said he welcomed the reports.

"We're not hiding a thing here," he said, often fighting back tears at a news conference. "We wanted fresh eyes on the fire."

He noted that since he became commissioner in July 2014 the department has significantly stepped up training and has already acted on some recommendations.

Kennedy, 33, was a former Marine and volunteer for burn victims and for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Walsh, 43, was married with three children. Thirteen other firefighters were injured.

The families of both Kennedy and Walsh, in statements read by Finn, said they hoped the reports and the recommendations would prevent future tragedies.

Prosecutors determined last April that no criminal charges were warranted in connection with the blaze, but several lawsuits were filed.

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Online: Both reports are available at http://www.cityofboston.gov/fire

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com