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The Boston Globe

Metro

Smoke inhalation, burns blamed in firefighter deaths

Boston firefighters battled a nine alarm fire in March.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe staff

Boston firefighters battled a nine-alarm fire in March.

The two firefighters who were killed in a deadly blaze in Back Bay in March died from smoke inhalation and burns, the state’s chief medical examiner has ruled.

The deaths were accidents, according to Chief Medical Examiner Henry M. Nields, who determined how firefighter Michael R. Kennedy, 33, and Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr., 43, died.

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Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, was not surprised by the medical examiner’s findings. Walsh and Kennedy died March 26 after being trapped in the basement of 298 Beacon St. during a nine-alarm fire.

“We know that both firefighters died heroically,’’ MacDonald said. “They gave people a chance to escape, and they died doing their job.”

Richard Paris, president of the firefighters union, said he had not seen the report, but added that both Kennedy and Walsh were exemplary members of the force who risked their lives that day in March.

“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Boston fire investigators determined in April that the blaze originated from sparks from welders working on a handrail at a building next door. Fierce winds blew sparks from the welding job to the back of 296 Beacon St., and onto clapboards near the rear of 298 Beacon St., causing the fire to spread.

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The welders did not have a city permit, which usually requires a Fire Department official to inspect the work site for potential hazards and decide whether a fire detail should be present.

A team of investigators from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is investigating other factors that contributed to the deaths and whether lessons can be learned to prevent future tragedies.

The Fire Department’s board of inquiry, headed by Deputy Chief Michael Doherty, is looking at various aspects of what happened during the blaze, such as fire operations, communications, and the weather.

Both investigations are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Meghan E. Irons can be reached at meghan.irons@globe.com.

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