The Garden Club of the Back Bay on Thursday dedicated a cherry tree on Beacon Street in memory of two Boston firefighters who were killed while battling a nine-alarm blaze five years ago.
A plaque at the foot of the tree bears the names of Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. of Engine Company 33 and firefighter Michael Kennedy of Ladder Company 15, who lost their lives on March 26, 2014, while fighting a fire at 298 Beacon St. in the Back Bay.
“As this tree grows and its roots become stronger, so shall the memory of their sacrifice,” the plaque reads.
The tree, fence, and plaque were donated by the garden club.
The rosy pink blossoms dotting the branches of the cherry tree stood out in contrast to the gray overcast sky on Thursday afternoon.
Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn spoke at the event and thanked the garden club for donating the tree.
“There’s no words that describe what took place here five years ago,” he said. “The sacrifices that Ed and Mike made that day will truly live on in the Boston Fire Department.”
The fire in the brownstone broke out on a windy afternoon and escalated quickly. Walsh, a 43-year-old father of three, and Kennedy, a 33-year-old Marine Corps veteran, ended up trapped in the basement. Investigators later determined that the fire was ignited by sparks from welders working on an iron handrail at the building next door.
“There’s days I wake up, and it feels like it was yesterday,” said Finn. “This tree is going to make a difference. . . . Eddie and Mike’s memories are going to live on. And I assure you the Boston Fire Department will never forget Eddie and Michael’s sacrifice on March 26, 2014.”
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh also spoke at the event and addressed the families of Walsh and Kennedy.
“Not a day goes by that our city isn’t grateful for the sacrifices that your family has made,” he said. “Ed and Mike are certainly true American heroes. They embody the spirit of Boston bravery, selflessness, and dedication to their professions.”
“Our firefighters ran towards the fire without a second thought, or single hesitation, wanting to make sure that no one was in the building,” he said. “They were ready to risk their lives for the safety of others that day. . . . Mike and Ed did that.”
Walsh said the tree will be a lasting tribute to Walsh and Kennedy.
Walsh’s sister, Kathy Malone of Watertown, was among those who attended the ceremony. She spoke glowingly of her little brother and his colleague.
“He was always there for everyone, and he was an amazing dad,” she said. “We’re very appreciative that they’re being honored. They meant so much to us.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.