It's a sad day in Boston today after a 110 foot E-One ladder careened out of control and slammed through the brick wall of a Mission Hill apartment complex. Three firefighters were injured and Lt. Kevin Kelley was killed instantly. Kelley was a 30 year BFD veteran and a married father of three girls. The early investigations believe that the brakes on the ladder failed, causing it to speed down the steep hill. The ladder was literally blocks from their fire house.
To say this a stark reminder of the dangers of "the job" is an understatement. I think we are all well aware that firefighting is an inherently dangerous job. However, I think that we generally forget that when the fire is out and we're simply driving back to the house, we could potentially be in just as much danger. There aren't a lot of fire apparatus MVCs but a recent class we attended showed the dangers of not wearing a seatbelt while operating or driving the BART. Let's just say it was a wake up call for all of us. (Admitted or not we are all guilty) I refuse to speculate as to whether Lt. Kelley was wearing his belt. That's not the point. However, after seeing that training crash tape, I have no doubt that this had to be a horrifying experience for all of them. I can not even begin to imagine such a thing.
I never met Lt. Kelley. However, for better or worse his life was captured by camera crews for the Discovery Channel series "Firehouse USA" which chronicled the goingson of the "Huntington Ave Express". E and I watched the show since I had a EMS paramedic partner/friend working for BFD (we never actually saw D). Lt. Kelley was a fixture on the show, and always a favourite of mine. He reminds me a great deal of an officer (attitude, work ethic, even the number of daughters were the same) on my own department, and I always thought it was funny how two people could be so alike, and yet have never met. My friend at the BFD once told me that the show was looked down upon greatly by the highups in the department and that they scattered a lot of the guys into various houses after viewing the show. (I never saw anything that was that out of bounds for what is expected in a firehouse) Apparently they were not happy about the portrayal of some of the downtime. Either way, I think that the show may have been a blessing. Not only did the rest of the firefighting community have this way to know such a great man; but his wife, children, and any grandchildren that will never meet him will be able to see what he was like...and what a truly great jake he had become.