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Probe: Fire hose failures common

Fallen Boston firefighter Michael Kennedy’s mother founded the Last Call Foundation, which is funding research into fireproof hoses

BOSTON — Failed fire hoses were a contributing factor in a wind-driven blaze that killed two Boston firefighters in March.

WCVB reported that fire hoses have burned through in other fatal fires across the country.

Boston firefighter Michael Kennedy carried a hose into a burning building that was burned through. Firefighter Kennedy and fellow firefighter Lt. Ed Walsh died in the basement after frantically calling for water.

“Engine 33, mayday. Charge Engine 33’s line now. It’s getting hot down here.”

Kennedy’s mother, Kathy Crosby-Bell, said the fact that they were calling for water is infuriating, sad and tragic, according to the report.

“When I look at the firefighters and realize this can happen to any one of them, we need to do something,” she said.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety, in 2008 two firefighters in North Carolina and one firefighter in Alabama died when an attack hose burned through. In 2010, an Illinois firefighter was killed when a hose failed.

Kennedy’s mother said she hopes the tragic loss of her son and the failure of a key firefighting tool are a catalyst for change, according to the report. She founded the Last Call Foundation, which is funding research into fireproof attack hoses.

Jack Grant, the head of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts, said the fire hose is a lifeline.

“If your lifeline isn’t coming, you’re not in a good place, especially in a basement,” he said.

Right now, the National Fire Protection Association standard on the hoses requires them to be heat resistant not fireproof, according to the report. NFPA officials told reporters there’s a balance to consider when improving firefighting equipment.

“The balance is not to create such an environment that firefighters may get deeper into a situation with the belief that what’s behind them will allow them to operate in that environment for a longer period of time,” Ken Willette, division manager of public fire protection for the NFPA, said.

Grant strongly disagreed.

“If you can improve safety, improve safety and we’ll train ourselves not to overstep our boundaries,” he said.

Research into developing a fireproof attack hose is underway at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, according to the report.