BOSTON — A fire driven by strong winds raced through a brownstone on Wednesday, trapping and killing two firefighters in the basement, where their colleagues could not rescue them.
Thirteen other firefighters were injured in the blaze, and several police officers also were taken to hospitals. Some residents had to be rescued from the upper floors of the four-story apartment building, but none was hurt, city officials said.
"Today's a sad day for the city of Boston," Mayor Marty Walsh said. "We lost two heroes here today."
The firefighters were identified as Lt. Edward J. Walsh, a 43-year-old father of three, and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, a 33-year-old Marine Corps combat veteran.
Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Finn said the fire, which sent smoke and flames pouring from the roof and windows of the brownstone, appeared to have started in the basement but moved quickly throughout the building.
The cause wasn't known, but he said all indications are that it was accidental and that it was the wind that caused the fire to spread through the building so quickly. Firewalls stopped the fire from consuming adjacent buildings.
"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," Finn said.
He said Walsh and Kennedy had gone down inside stairs into the basement, and he assumed that a front window broke out and blew the fire back at them.
They called a mayday within two or three minutes of entering the building.
Kennedy was found about 30 minutes later and was pulled from the building but was pronounced dead at a hospital. Walsh's body was recovered later and was removed in what fire department spokesman Steve MacDonald described as "a very solemn ceremony," in which he was carried on a stretcher out the back of the building through a line of saluting firefighters.
Some of the other firefighters were injured when they were blown down stairs by a backdraft explosion caused by the wind, Finn said.