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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Boston on Fire

The City of Boston

Last week, Becky and I travelled to Boston for an enjoyable vacation. If you have not been to Boston, I suggest making a trip in your lifetime. It is amazing how much history there is in the City. We tried to get to as much as possible, but there just wasn't enough time.

I enjoyed reading about the Boston Fire Department and about historical fires in Boston. If you aren't aware, Boston has had several significant fires, two which nearly burned the whole City to the ground, the Cocoanut Grove fire which killed 490 people, and a hotel fire which killed 9 firefighters.

I got an email several months ago from Stephanie Schorow about a new book coming out titled Rescue Men. In the meantime, she sent me two of her books titled The Cocoanut Grove Fire and Boston on Fire. I read both of the books and learned about historic fires in Boston and other events which shaped Boston's Fire Department. I recommend both books.

The site of the Cocoanut Grove fire is a very quiet residential/commercial area. We went there midday, so most of the residents were away at work. The only telling reminders of the Fire are the plaque in the sidewalk and a plaque on the wall of a neighboring building.

Rescue Men, written by Charles Kenney, is a book mainly about his Father "Sonny"and Grandfather "Pops" who were both firefighters in Boston. Ironically, both of them were retired due to health reasons after suffering injuries in significant fires. His Grandfather suffered injuries during the Cocoanut Grove fire, and was one of the first firefighters on scene. He was able to rescue many people that evening. Charles' dad became one of the top experts on the Cocoanut Grove Fire, spending years of his life researching the fire and trying to define a cause for the disastrous fire.

The book delves into other struggles in the Kenney family including Affirmative Action which kept other Kenney men from becoming Boston Firefighters, growing up in Boston, losing his mother, and his fathers struggle to find peace after being retired from the BFD due to injuries. The book also discusses Charles' brother who responded to the World Trade Center after September 11th and assisted with the Search and Rescue operations. Read a review on the book. Mike over at the Firefighter Blog also wrote a review on Rescue Men.

Boston has a Fire Museum, it opens in May and stays open for over half the year apparently. Unfortunately, it wasn't open when we where there. The have some neat Firefighting artifacts in the museum which used to be a fire station. According to the website they have a Rebuilt 1966 American La France Model 900, 1000 gallon per minute pumper. (Ex- Mount Vernon, Virginia).

You can visit the Boston Fire Department online here. The BFD is separate from Boston EMS. I would have stopped in the one EMS station I saw, but both of the units were out on a call.


There were many sights I wanted to make it to in Boston, one being the Hotel Vendome Memorial. Ironically, Becky picked out a Tapas restaurant for us to eat at across town from our hotel and it just so happened to be in the basement of what used to be the Hotel Vendome. The building is now office space, however in 1972 it became a tomb for 9 firefighters and nearly 16 more when 4 floors collapsed trapping 25 firefighters in all.

According to the Boston Firebuff website: The firefighters were killed on June 17, 1972, when the hotel's southeast wall came crashing down. It was the worst tragedy in the history of the Boston Fire Department and one of the dozen most deadly in the history of U.S. firefighting.

The Massachusetts Firefighters Memorial has information on the firefighters who lost their lives that day as well.
In the pictures of the memorial, the Hotel Vendome is in the background.

At the Hotel Vendome, they have a memorial set up across the street in the median, think Monument Avenue in Richmond, each of the names are lit at night. We had to come back the next day to get the pictures, it was well worth it.


We were able to get around to a couple of Fire Stations in Boston. I didn't have a map of the stations, and I figured we would just come across one or two here and there. Eventually, we did find a couple of the stations. I didn't get to chat with too many of the firefighters, however it seemed as though they had several reserve apparatus in service.
In the center you can see the bays for the firehouse, to the right of it you can see an ambulance sitting in front of the EMS house. The firehouse houses E10, TL3, R1, Technical Support Unit 1, Collapse Unit, Division 1

This is the house for Ladder 1 and Engine 8 in Boston's North End otherwise known as Little Italy. This firehouse is right around the corner from the Paul Revere house and down the street from Mike's Pastry, both of which we stopped at.

We also stopped by Engine 33 and Ladder 15's firehouse on Boylston Street. This is the firehouse which was recently on Firehouse.com due to a catastrophic failure on their aerial ladder. They were not too happy about the reserve sitting behind them.

Boston still uses Fire Alarm Pull Boxes and from what I have read they are still very pleased with the service it provides the citizens. Of course, they have an advanced 911 call/dispatch center too, but the old pull boxes still work just fine. One thing I do need to look into is why they have so many darned fire hydrants. Not that it is a complaint, but there would be two right next to each other, then 4 more within view in a block radius. I took a picture with the other camera and I will upload it later. The hydrants were either red or yellow it seemed, but I don't think it was NFPA color coded. Some had 4 2 1/2" outlets and others had a steamer connection. It was odd.

That was the trip as far as Firefighting goes. We did have a blast and we ate at some great restaurants, drank some great beer, and enjoyed the history of Boston. We even stumbled across filming for the movie 21 starring Kevin Spacey about the MIT card reading group who took millions from Vegas casinos before getting caught. We didn't see any big stars, but we did get to see the set as they filmed on a bridge in Boston.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. We went to see the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees at Fenway Park. We went to game three of the series on Sunday and sat in Center Field. We had a blast. Becky had never been to a MLB game besides when we went to Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Fenway Park was nuts, the fans up there are awesome and had a bunch of fun. It was also neat seeing Ramirez, Drew, Loretta, and Varitek hit back to back homeruns. You can read about it here.
Becky and I at Fenway Park

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

GO YANKEES!

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Anonymous said...

Glad you had a good time in Boston. I'm a Boston Firefighter and I thought I'd answer your question about the hydrants.

The hydrants with the 4, 2 1/2" outlets are high pressure hydrants that are used in high rise fires. They are fed via a pumping station that boosts the pressure in the system.