The Associated Press

Boston Officials: Sparks From Welding Work Caused Fatal Fire

The nine-alarm fire on Beacon Street in Boston killed two firefighters and left 13 others injured. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The nine-alarm fire on Beacon Street in Boston killed two firefighters and left 13 others injured. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

BOSTON — Sparks from a welding project for which no one had obtained a permit caused the wind-driven fire that tore through a Boston brownstone last week, killing two firefighters and injuring 13, officials said Friday.

Police Commissioner William Evans said investigators are confident the fire in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood was unintentional, but they have not decided whether anyone will face charges.

Boston Fire Commissioner John Hasson said it did not appear anyone had obtained a permit for the work on an iron railing in back of an apartment building next to the one that burned. The sparks somehow got into the building and the fire, fanned by strong winds, spread quickly. One senior fire official previously said that in 30 years he had never seen a fire spread so fast and cause so much damage.

Firefighter Michael Kennedy, left, and Lt. Edward Walsh died in the fire. (Boston Fire Department)

Firefighter Michael Kennedy, left, and Lt. Edward Walsh died in the fire. (Boston Fire Department)

Officials declined to discuss specifics of the case, including the scope of the welding work, what firm the welders worked for, whether they called 911 to report the fire or whether they are cooperating with investigators.

Permits are required for all welding projects in Massachusetts and most also must have someone from the fire department watching to make sure they are being done safely. Hasson said no such fire detail was assigned to the project at the Beacon Street building.

Oliver Realty Limited Partnership, the company that owned the adjacent building where the wielding took place, said in a statement that it hired an unnamed third party to install the railing and thought it was going to be built offsite. The company would not comment any further.

Edward Zabin, a Suffolk County prosecutor, said human error in fatal fires does not always lead to criminal charges. He noted that Massachusetts, unlike many states, does not have a negligent homicide statute; the only way someone can be charged with that type of crime is in certain motor vehicle accidents.

Firefighter Michael Kennedy, 33, and Lt. Edward Walsh, 43, died after they were trapped in the basement of the burning building. Both were laid to rest this week in emotional funerals attended by thousands of firefighters from across the state and nation.

“It’s been a tough week for the firefighters,” Evans said.

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  • Lawrence

    Hopefully this can be a learning experience to avoid further tragedy. Welding is dangerous and for those who do this kind of work, you would think they would take every precaution, if they are aware of them in the first place.

    The same cause of a famous cathedral fire in Fall River in the 80s. It was being renovated, millions were being poured into it, and then burned to the ground due to sparks from welding.

  • Tommye-K. Mayer

    I am devastated to read that because neither a fire detail or work permits were pulled for the nearby welding operation on Back Street, abutting the property at 298 Beacon Street in the Back Bay where two ‪#‎BostonFirefighters‬ died & apparently the project, related to the repair of a nearby railing, should have required a formal fire permit and the presence of a fire extinguisher.

    This situation calls to mind the installation of my landing which was stopped because unbeknownst to me the installer had not pulled the proper permits. I of course was horrified & apologizing to the fire inspector who shut down the job. He told me, “you’re not at fault. These guys know what they’re supposed to do. This company has a long record of not pulling the proper permits.”

    CLEARLY the penalty is not still enough. And to me, this whole story simply reinforces my contention RONALD REAGAN WAS WRONG. Business cannot regulate itself and yes, Capitalism relies on government to make the rules and to enforce those rules.

    Just as the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, FIFA, etc rely on referees, & umpires wielding stiff penalties.

  • York Aptain Sidney Field

    Chief liar, Hussein Obama, lies to the face of the American people about keeping their insurance and their doctor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8spP856AMY

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