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Lawsuit filed against welding company after deadly Back Bay blaze

The owners of 298 Beacon St. are suing the welders believed to have unintentionally sparked last month’s 9-alarm fire in Back Bay that killed two Boston firefighters. PHOTO BY ANN SINGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The owners of 298 Beacon St. are suing the welders believed to have unintentionally sparked last month’s 9-alarm fire in Back Bay that killed two Boston firefighters. PHOTO BY ANN SINGER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

After being found responsible for the Back Bay blaze that resulted in the deaths of two firefighters March 26, D&J Iron Works, the welding company that was working on the premises at the time, is being sued by the owner of the building.

The lawsuit was filed in Suffolk Superior Court on April 14 on the behalf of Herbert Lerman, the executor of the estate of Michael Callahan, who owns the brownstone that caught on fire. Part of the suit is directed toward Oliver Realty LP, which owns the building on 298 Beacon St. where the welders were working.

The suit stated that Oliver Realty LP did not have a permit for the welding work that took place and also said that the company was responsible for failing to take the necessary precautions for welding work to occur on site.

“By virtue of the inherently dangerous nature of the welding work, Oliver Realty LP is liable for the failure of D&J and Falcone to take such special precautions to avoid damage to the property of adjoining landowners,” Lerman stated in the suit.

The suit is also directed toward D&J Iron Works in Malden, the welding company being held responsible for the fire.

“As a direct and proximate result of D&J’s negligence, the Estate has sustained damages, including without limitation, property damage and loss of building income, in an amount to be determined at trial,” Lerman stated in the suit.

Lerman also said that the welders violated the Boston Fire Prevention Code, as there was no firefighter or firewatcher present at the site. Additionally, the welders did not have a fire extinguisher or fire resistant shield.

Fire investigators determined that the sparks from the welders came in contact with the shingles on 298 Beacon St. Strong winds further ignited the fire. The case is still under further investigation.

Boston Fire Department Spokesman Steve MacDonald would not comment on the court proceedings, but said although the fire was unfortunate, he is not surprised that it happened.

“It happens from time to time especially if you have strong winds,” he said. “It happens, unfortunately it happened this day.”

MacDonald said the deaths of Lt. Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy were a “tragic loss” for the Boston Fire Department.

“Lt. Walsh was 43 years old and married with three very young children,” he said.  “Firefighter Kennedy was 33 years old and actually scheduled to run in the Boston Marathon. Both are missed greatly and it’s just a tragic lost for the department.”

Diana Pisciotta, spokesperson for Oliver Realty LP, said in a statement that she and other members of the company are saddened at the effects of the fire.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic fire,” she said. “Our hearts go out to the families of the firefighters who gave their lives to save others and protect property.”

She also said the company has been cooperative with investigators and is launching its own review of the fire.

“We have cooperated fully with the investigators, providing them with all relevant information, and will continue to do so,” she said. “The company also expects to launch its own review.”

Several residents had mixed feelings about the lawsuit. Some said it is sad to specifically blame certain people for the tragedy, but also said giving someone responsibility will prevent it from happening again.

“It’s complicated, pinning the fire on one person,” said Lisa Cukier, 51, of Back Bay. “But we never want this to happen again. So forcing one person to accept the blame and change what they are doing wrong that led to the fire will hopefully keep something like that from happening again. It’s just so sad that someone can lose their life because of someone’s stupid mistake.”

Dimitri Racklin, 33, of Boston said he agrees with the owner of the building, in protecting his rights as a landowner and making sure he gets compensated for the damage.

“If someone under their authority was doing something wrong that ended up in a fire, then they should definitely take them to court,” he said. “That kind of stuff cannot be allowed to happen, especially when it can end with two guys dead.”

Harry Mellinger, 54, of the West End, said he is glad that legal action is being taken if policies and procedures were not followed.

“People dealing with that sort of equipment can’t be lazy and they can’t slack off,” he said. “Procedures and rules are there to prevent stuff like this. The building owner needs to do what he can to make sure his people are following the rules, that’s his responsibility too.”

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