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NIOSH Report Shows Contributing Factors to 2014 Back Bay Fire.

In 2014, a deadly blaze in the Back Bay killed two firefighters and injured several others. The house fire, which was unintentionally caused by welders working at an adjacent building, quickly grew out of control due to high winds. Last week, Joseph Finn, Commissioner for the Boston Fire Department, held a press conference to release the results of an investigation conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). According to the NIOSH report, the 2014 accident was a result of a “perfect storm” of problems. Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Today.

The two firefighters killed in the Back Bay fire were 43-year-old Lt. Edward Walsh and 33-year-old Michael Kennedy. NIOSH’s report criticized the fire department for lack of training and inadequate staffing, both of which may have contributed to the accident’s devastating outcome. NIOSH also attributed the tragic outcome to high winds and the fact that firefighters were not notified in time. Several windows and doors were open at the time of the blaze, which allowed high winds to blow into the open spaces causing a backdraft. Fire consumes oxygen. If a fire has consumed all oxygen within a space and more oxygen suddenly becomes available (through an open door, window, or other opening), the explosive reaction is called a backdraft.

According to Finn, “People were literally blown off their feet.” Adding to the unfortunate events, water was cut off to the house when the fire burned through the hose lines.

The NIOSH report included a review of contributing factors, as well as several proposed fixes to prevent similar catastrophic events in the future. In response to the criticism from NIOSH, Finn said, “I’m OK with the critical part. I don’t take offense to it.” However, he also said that the department had recognized the need for additional training and had devoted more time to training in the two years preceding the fire than in the previous 10 years.

Not the First Time

Multiple high-profile cases in recent years have brought the Boston Fire Department under fire.

  • In 2009, a fatal fire truck crash was blamed on inadequate training when a BFD firefighter slammed into a building on Huntington Avenue.
  • Multiple fire trucks were cited for faulty brakes and other parts in 2009, resulting in several trucks being pulled out of service and the fire safety chief’s termination for absenteeism.
  • The flawed tactical decisions of BFD supervisors were to blame for the death of two firefighters in a 2007 West Roxbury restaurant blaze. Their actions resulted in a backdraft that sent a giant fireball through the building.

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