Thousands of firefighters from across the country are expected to converge in Watertown and West Roxbury this week for the funerals of Boston firefighter Michael R. Kennedy and Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr., who were killed Wednesday in a nine-alarm fire on Beacon Street.
“We’ll have virtually every state represented, and almost all the provinces in Canada represented,” said Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald. “We want the families to know that these were both special guys, and this is what we think of them. We give the proper send-off. It’s also for ourselves, too. There are a lot of firefighters hurting.”
Walsh, 43, and Kennedy, 33, rushed into 298 Beacon St. on Wednesday afternoon to investigate the source of smoke coming from the basement and were killed when they got trapped there as the blaze exploded in heat and smoke.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, said MacDonald.
“It’s under investigation,” said MacDonald. “Nothing’s been ruled in or out.”
‘We want the families to know that these were both special guys.’
On Saturday, workers could be seen atop the late 19th-century brick row house. MacDonald said they are working to make what remains of the structure is safe so that investigators can go inside. The fire caused the roof to collapse, he said, so the walls are not anchored to anything. Charred fire hoses could still be seen in the front of the building.
A few blocks away, the makeshift shrine in front of the Boylston Street firehouse where Walsh and Kennedy were stationed was still growing, with people bringing flowers and stopping into the station to buy T-shirts. MacDonald said that residents have brought so much food to the station that the department had to kindly ask them to stop for fear that the food will go bad. The firehouse has one refrigerator, he said.
A funeral Mass will be said for Walsh on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown. Visiting hours will be Tuesday from 3 to 8 p.m. in the church.
A funeral Mass will be said for Kennedy on Thursday at 11 a.m. in Holy Name Church in West Roxbury. Burial will be in Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain. Visiting hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in P.E. Murray-F.J. Higgins, George F. Doherty & Sons Funeral Home in West Roxbury.
“A line of duty funeral has a lot of ceremonial aspects that are near and dear to all firefighters,” said MacDonald. “The wailing of bagpipes, the casket on top of an engine. All those things will be present at both these funerals.”
The flag-draped caskets of both Walsh and Kennedy will ride atop Engine 33, the firetruck they rode to the Beacon Street blaze.
“It’s so symbolic, in many ways. That’s what will carry his body on his last call,” said MacDonald. “It’s taking him home.”
Ladder 15, the other firetruck stationed at the Boylston Street firehouse, will be adorned with flowers and bunting for the funeral procession, he said, and 400 bagpipers will play. One firefighter at each funeral will have the honor of carrying an empty helmet.
“These guys, their lives mattered,” said MacDonald. “This is all part of the process of healing and going forward. I don’t think there’s ever closure.”