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Firefighter whose father died battling 1994 blaze is promoted to district chief

Joseph Minehan was on Thursday named a district chief for the Boston Fire Department.
Joseph Minehan was on Thursday named a district chief for the Boston Fire Department.BFD

Lieutenant Stephen F. Minehan sacrificed his life on June 24, 1994, while courageously working to save his fellow firefighters during a nine-alarm blaze in Charlestown.

On Thursday, 27 years later, Minehan’s son, a fourth-generation member of the Boston Fire Department, Joseph P. Minehan, was promoted to district chief.

On Twitter, Fire Commissioner John Dempsey wrote that Stephen Minehan “paid the ultimate sacrifice” to help save two other firefighters.”

The late BFD Lieutenant Stephen Minehan.
The late BFD Lieutenant Stephen Minehan.BFD

The fire engulfed a vacant warehouse on Charles River Avenue. Minehan, 44, was directing three other firefighters in the rescue attempt when he apparently lost his way in the thick smoke and heat.

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“He was a firefighter’s firefighter,” then-commissioner Martin E. Pierce Jr. said after Minehan’s body was found in the charred rubble. “He is a hero.”

The missing firefighters were found unconscious and rushed to a hospital, the Globe reported at the time.

Shortly after Minehan’s death, the Rev. James Lane, pastor of St. Brendan’s Church in Dorchester, said the firefighter was devoted to his wife and four children.

“They were his life,” Lane said. “He taught them the beautiful value of life.”

Joseph Minehan, who was 15 when his father died, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Red Sox game days after the tragedy.

Years later in 2012, the younger Minehan, then a fire lieutenant, remembered his father during an interview at the Huntington Avenue firehouse in Roxbury.

“I remember being four or five 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,” he told the Globe. “And I remember sitting up in the bucket and thinking ‘This is pretty awesome.’ ”

In the interview, Joseph Minehan recalled his close calls on the job, once climbing a rickety fire escape and shimmying across a narrow ledge with three other firefighters to reach residents 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.”

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

Minehan’s great-grandfather left Ireland in 1899 and a year later became a Boston firefighter, eventually rising to district chief. His grandfather was an engineer, a term then used for drivers, and helped save nine people during the Cocoanut Grove fire on Nov. 28, 1942, which claimed 492 lives. Minehan’s sister also works for the department, as a dispatcher. His mother, Kathleen Minehan, became the team leader of WINGS, Widows in Need of Grief Support, after her husband’s death, the Globe reported in 2012.

The group helped the widows of the firefighters who died in the Worcester Cold Storage fire in 1999.

The younger Minehan entered the Fire Academy in August 2001.

Jeremiah Manion of the Globe staff contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.