Fierce winds gusting up to 45 mph caused a backdraft in the basement of a Boston brownstone, trapping and killing two firefighters tackling a nine-alarm blaze on Wednesday.
Indications are that the fire was accidental and that it was the wind that caused the blaze to spread through the building so quickly, Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn said late Wednesday.
"In 30 years I've never seen a fire travel that fast, escalate that quickly and create such havoc in such a short period of time," he said of the brownstone blaze that claimed two victims, Lt. Ed Walsh and firefighter Mike Kennedy, both of Engine 33.
Walsh and Kennedy had gone down inside stairs into the basement. A front window broke out and blew the fire back at them, Finn told The Associated Press. They called a mayday within two or three minutes of entering the building.
"Mayday Engine 33! Engine 33 is a mayday!," one of the firefighters called.
“We’re in the basement. Coming to get us?”
A dispatcher replied, "Yeah, Engine 33, they're coming to get you."
Kennedy, a Marine veteran, was removed about 30 minutes later and taken to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to NBC News' Boston affiliate WHDH.
Firefighters were unable to get to Walsh's body for several hours. The married father to three children under the age of 10 was carried out on a stretcher and past a line of saluting firefighters, the station reported.
"Today's a sad day for the city of Boston," Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. "We lost two heroes here today."