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For 112 years, a firefighting family has kept watch

Dorchester native promoted as he carries tradition

SUZANNE KREITER/GLOBE STAFF

Joseph Minehan, 33, holding his son Stephen, 3, inside the Huntington Avenue Firehouse in Roxbury, comes from a firefighting family. Minehan was recently promoted to lieutenant, the same rank as his father, Stephen F. Minehan, who was killed trying to rescue two other firefighters during a 9-alarm blaze on the Charlestown pier on June 24, 1994.

Stephen Minehan, 3, says he wants to be a firefighter when he grows up, just like his dad, the Boston Fire Department’s newest lieutenant, who also decided at an early age to follow in the footsteps of his firefighting father, a man who lost his life 18 years ago on a rescue in Charlestown.

“I remember being 4 or 5 years old and coming in here to this particular firehouse, because this is where my father was stationed, and they had a big tiller truck . . . and I remember sitting up in the bucket and thinking this is pretty awesome,’’ said Joseph Minehan, 33, standing in front of a ladder truck Thursday inside the Huntington Avenue Firehouse in Roxbury.

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Nearby, his son, Michael, 1, crawled to the front of the massive truck and grabbed the shiny bumper to lift himself up.

Minehan, who grew up in Dorchester, says if his two boys choose to become firefighters, he will support them, despite his awareness of the dangers of the job.

His father, Lieutenant Stephen F. Minehan, was 44 when he responded to a 9-alarm fire at a building on the Charlestown pier on June, 24, 1994. He rushed into the structure to rescue two firefighters but became trapped and died inside. The two firefighters were rescued.

Minehan vividly remembers the day his father died. He was 15. “There were about 30 people in my house at 7 in the morning,’’ he recalled. “I walked in the kitchen, and my mother said, ‘Sit down, I need to tell you something.’ ’’

Minehan has had his own close calls: once climbing a rickety fire escape and shimmying across a narrow ledge with three other firefighters to reach occupants of a Brighton apartment building engulfed in flames.

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“We got everyone out safely and we all went home,’’ he said. “That’s the ultimate goal, and that’s the reason I took the test and studied, I want to make sure the guys I know go home.’’

His wife, Kaleena Minehan, 34, says she tries not to worry.

“I’ve got friends who kind of agonize about it every time their husbands go to work, whereas I say I love you and we talk to each other sometimes three or four times a night,’’ she said.

Minehan was promoted to lieutenant May 8. The position pays $86,000 a year. He is now one of 220 lieutenants in the department, which also has 74 captains, 51 district chiefs, and 14 deputy chiefs.

DAVID RYAN/FILE 1994/GLOBE STAFF

Joseph wore his father’s uniform shirt during the funeral service at the Cedar Grove Cemetery in Dorchester.

While firefighter families are common, the Minehan family is deeply ingrained in the fabric of the department.

Minehan’s great grandfather left Ireland in 1899 and a year later became a Boston firefighter, eventually becoming a district chief. His grandfather was an engineer, a term used for drivers then, and helped save nine people during the Cocoanut Grove fire on Nov. 28, 1942, that claimed 492 lives. Minehan’s sister also works for the department, as a dispatcher. And his mother, Kathleen Minehan, became the team leader of WINGS, Widows in Need of Grief Support, after her husband’s death. The group helped the widows of the firefighters who died in the Worcester Cold Storage Fire in 1999.

A plaque honoring Minehan’s father is at the Charlestown Waterfront, and his name was attached to a training technique, the Minehan Drill.

Stephen F. Minehan tried to exit the burning building in Charlestown by following a fire hose, but went the wrong way, going further inside. The drill teaches firefighters, under complete darkness, to locate the “female’’ coupling on the hose to determine the way out.

“When we teach that drill, we go over the story of what happened with Lieutenant Minehan,’’ said Lieutenant Santiago Lasa, 52, who trains the department’s Special Operations teams. “We named the drill in 2007, and we wanted to use his name because he was one of us.’’

Arthur Johnson, 61, a captain and Minehan’s supervisor at the Huntington Avenue firehouse, entered the department with Minehan’s father in 1974.

“I would say they’re both from the same seed, his father loved the job, it was his passion, and anything that had to be done he was there to do it,’’ Johnson said. “His son is the same way. They both became lieutenants with a little over 10 years on the job. . . . I think he’ll go higher.’’

Johnson added, “This is the completion of what he was shooting for, though, to obtain the rank that his father once had, and I know his dad would be proud of him.’’

Minehan entered the academy in August 2001. “The only real time I did second guess it was in September of 2001, the 9/11 attacks,’’ Minehan said. “I think everyone in our class kind of took a step back for a second, but watching those guys run up those towers kind of reaffirmed it for everybody.’’

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.

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