BOSTON — The city of Boston is mourning the loss of two of its firefighters, killed fighting a blaze that destroyed a brownstone in the Back Bay Wednesday. Firefighter Michael Kennedy was 33-years-old. Lt. Edward Walsh was 43.
Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said when a “Mayday” call went out from the four-story building at 298 Beacon Street, firefighters knew something catastrophic was happening.
“The firefighters were able to get firefighter Mike Kennedy out. They were working on him. They got him to Mass General, but he was pronounced there at Mass General,” MacDonald said. “We all pretty much knew Lt. Walsh was gone.”
MacDonald knew Walsh personally.
“Big guy. Comes from a huge family of firefighters in Watertown. His father was a lieutenant, his father was named Eddie. He’s deceased, but Eddie was a lieutenant at Watertown,” MacDonald said. “His uncle Bill, who I knew, was probably about 6’5”. He was a lieutenant in Watertown. He’s got a cousin who is currently a captain on Watertown. Eddie, as a firefighter, was assigned to Ladder 15 in that firehouse.”
The firehouse on Boylston Street is the city’s second busiest, and it’s where young firefighters want to go because it’s where the action is. Walsh was promoted two years ago, and MacDonald explained that at that point, he had to leave the Boylston Street station.
“When you’re promoted, you’re basically out of the firehouse. Now, you go and you bounce around the city until you find a berth as a lieutenant,” MacDonald explained. “And what Eddie did is he went and worked the circuit and worked at different firehouses, but his goal was always to get back to that firehouse. You only get into an officer position if there’s a vacancy, so one opened up on the engine and he bid for it and he got it, so that’s why he was assigned to Engine 33 and worked there as a lieutenant.”
Walsh lived in West Roxbury with his wife and three children, two boys and a girl, all under 10.
Former City Councillor John Tobin knew Walsh because their children are friends.
“A big, imposing athletic guy,” and not a rah-rah guy, Tobin said. “Some people, no matter what profession they’re in, they’re only too eager to tell you what they do and how they do it. Ed was kind of, in spite of his size, kind of quiet.”
Michael Kennedy had been a firefighter for six-and-a-half years. MacDonald says Kennedy was also assigned to the Boylston Street firehouse, to Ladder 15.
“He happened to be working on Engine 33 yesterday, which is not uncommon in a firehouse,” MacDonald said. “The engine might be short a person and the ladder has an extra person, they’ll just send someone across the floor. Mike was a combat veteran.”
Kennedy was a Marine and fought in Iraq. He was among the first to respond to the bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line last year. He was training to run in this year’s race and had just completed a half-marathon four days ago.
The night before the fire, he was welcoming firefighters from around the country to Boston as part of a conference of the Burn Foundation, which raises money for burn victims.