Boston Firefighters union president Rich Paris releases a response to the NIOSH investigation results of the 2014 fire that claimed the lives of Lt Walsh and Firefighter Kennedy. The report cited lack of training, inadequate staffing and failure to adequately assess risk contributed to the deaths.
To All Media Outlets:
I am writing in response to the recent coverage of the Board of Inquiry reports (Federal and City of Boston) regarding the 2014 Beacon Street Fire. These reports revealed what every Boston Firefighter already knew – Lt. Walsh and Michael Kennedy did nothing wrong. Both reports also revealed an enormous amount of data. Some scientific, some the result of budgetary restraints that I believe were placed on the Boston Fire Department as a result of a strained relationship with the previous administration. The Federal Board of Inquiry and The Boston Fire Department Board of Inquiry should be commended for the long hours of painful reconstruction of this tragedy. On behalf of Boston Firefighters, I would like to thank them respectively for their efforts. However, these reports did not reveal any solution(s) that would change the manner in which Boston Firefighters operate when they are called to duty. Boston Firefighters took an oath to protect life and property, sadly sometimes that oath is carried out with our members making the supreme sacrifice, so others may live. This is an unfortunate reality of our profession. While the recent reports provide a detailed insight into the events of the Beacon Street Fire, they do not suggest any wrongdoing by Boston Firefighters, or point to any easier way to perform a difficult job. More importantly, they should not be viewed as a critical assessment of any of the firefighters that went to work on that fateful day.
Some media outlets have interpreted these reports as a criticism of Lt. Walsh and Firefighter Kennedy. Some media outlets have even used words like “scathing” and “wrongful” to describe the actions of the Boston Fire Department. As the President of Boston Firefighters Local 718, I am outraged at these assertions and heartbroken for the Walsh and Kennedy Families. Fire Commissioner Finn and I painstakingly reviewed both reports and drew the same conclusion, if the same circumstances presented today our members would do exactly the same thing. Boston Firefighters have a dangerous job. Furthermore, while some factors at a fire can be predicted, and trained for many cannot.
It is my intention moving forward, that the Walsh and Kennedy Families are continually cared for and protected. The unnecessary scrutiny of Lt. Walsh and Firefighter Kennedy’s actions by some media outlets that have chosen to interpret the recent reports as something that they are not, is simply wrong. I am aware that the media has a job to do, but so do we. It is my sincere hope that the Walsh and Kennedy Families will be allowed to move forward and spared of any further criticism of the heroic actions that their loved ones exhibited on that terrible day. I have been saying from the beginning, Lt. Walsh and FF Kennedy were involved in a mission with their brother and sister firefighters that day. They saved people’s lives and unfortunately made the ultimate sacrifice. Lt. Walsh & FF Kennedy are heroes in my book. During interviews last week, I consistently reiterated those words, however they were never publicized. Therefore, I respectfully request that my words are interpreted for what they are – a request for these families and the members of the Boston Fire Department to be afforded the opportunity to continue to heal.
Rich Paris, President
Local 718 AFL-CIO
Photo by; BRIAN SNYDER Reuters.