Fire May Have Damaged Hose in Fatal Boston Blaze

March 27--Fallen heroes Lt. Edward Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy may have perished in the basement of a burning Back Bay brownstone after fierce flames chewed through the water hose they were frantically trying to discharge, union officials told the Herald.

"That's one of the potential situations we're looking at," said Ed Kelly, president of the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts. "It happens. You just think you've lost water so you ask for more water."

Richard Paris, president of Boston Fire Local 718, said it's not an unusual occurrence.

"It happens more often than you think," Paris said.

Fire hoses are not designed to be fireproof, said Ken Willette, a division manager at the National Fire Protection Association, which sets manufacturer standards for firefighting equipment.

"The construction material to provide that level of fire resistance would require a hose that would not be flexible. If you think of materials that are fireproof, it's things like concrete and metal, and those do not make good materials for a fire hose," Willette said.

He said fireproof hoses actually could put firefighters in danger by allowing them to get closer to a fire than their protective gear allows.

"If the temperature where the fire hose is gets to the temperature that the hose is going to burn through, you have a very serious situation. That's an environment where firefighter safety is at immediate risk, and it's not an environment firefighters try to put themselves into."

Walsh and Kennedy made desperate mayday calls from the basement and were asking for more water within minutes of entering the building.

"Charge the line! Charge 33's line right now!" one of the firefighters is heard saying on dispatch radio early in the fire, a two-alarm blaze at the time that eventually was elevated to nine. The number 33 is in reference to their engine number. "Thirty-three is trapped in the basement," he said after the fourth alarm was struck. "Toward the front of the building ... you gotta charge my line."

Walsh, 43, was a married father of three and a nine-year Boston fire veteran. Kennedy, 33, had six years on the fire department. He was U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who had served in Haditha, Iraq.

Fire officials said smoke was showing upon their arrival at 298 Beacon Street at 2:43 p.m. yesterday. Walsh and Kennedy raced inside to locate the source of the fire while fellow firefighters worked to rescue anyone trapped inside. A mere two or three minutes later, Walsh and Kennedy issued the mayday call, and all firefighters were ordered out of the building.

Firefighters believe a front-facing window shattered and high winds turned the fire into an instant inferno.

"These guys, they hit the mayday, but the problem of course is the sheer volume of fire," Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said. "It was some kind of extraordinary incident ... almost all of us believe it was wind-related."

Capt. Neal Mullane of Ladder 18 and the Rapid Intervention Team said he and others responding to the two firefighters' mayday were trying to reach the basement with another line but were blown off their feet by a backdraft. Mullane suffered a gash and burn to the back of his head.

It could be weeks, if not longer, before investigators determine the cause of yesterday's devastating Back Bay fire that claimed the lives of two Boston firefighters, officials said today.

Thirteen other firefighters were hospitalized with injuries including burns and broken bones. Ten have been released, MacDonald said.

Copyright 2014 - Boston Herald

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