Fallen Boston Firefighters' Families Push for ‘Hot Work' Bill to Prevent Tragedies Like Back Bay Fire

Families of Boston firefighter Michael Kennedy and Lt. Ed Walsh are pushing for change to prevent tragedies like the deadly Back Bay fire from happening in the future

What to Know

  • A fire broke out on Beacon Street in Boston's Back Bay on March 26, 2014. It was ignited by sparks from welders working in the area.
  • The fire claimed the lives of Boston firefighter Michael Kennedy and Lt. Ed Walsh.
  • Four years later, the victims' families are advocating a bill that would increase penalties for welding and grinding without permits.

Four years after two Boston firefighters were killed battling a 9-alarm blaze in the Back Bay neighborhood, their family members are pushing for change to prevent future tragedies.

"Accidents happen. Their deaths were no accident," said Lt. Ed Walsh's sister, Kristin Walsh.

Lt. Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy died in 2014, when a fire on Beacon Street was ignited by sparks from welders working on an iron handrail. They did not have proper permits, certification or supervision.

The fallen firefighters' families gave impassioned pleas to state lawmakers Wednesday, calling for action to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

"Given the intense wind and weather conditions on that day, why anyone thought it made sense to ignite a torch on March 26, 2014, is beyond me," Kristin Walsh said.

"I still struggle with the fact that nobody is in jail," said Kennedy's mother, Kathy Crosby Bell. "Please remedy that."

Kennedy's mother and Walsh's sister lobbied the state legislature's "Hot Works" committee to pass legislation that would not only make certification required statewide, but would increase the current penalties for performing welding and grinding without the proper permits from minimal fines to much larger fines and even jail time.

"If you have a maximum fine structure of $1,000 and it costs [between $400 and $600] a day to have a fire watch on that building, builders may take that risk," said Saugus Fire Chief Michael Newbury with the Fire Chiefs Association.

"I think it's a travesty that it isn't already there," Crosby Bell said. "Four years is too long for this."

The Hot Works committee has an August 15 deadline for reporting its findings and recommending legislation.

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