- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

CLAREMONT, N.H. (AP) - One of the two Boston firefighters killed in a Wednesday blaze came to the aid of an injured New Hampshire firefighter just three weeks ago.

Michael Kennedy was among the members of the Boston Firefighters Burn Foundation to visit Claremont Fire Department Lt. Andrew Stevens, who was burned in a March 2 house fire. They provided emotional support, gave Stevens‘ family gift cards for living expenses and arranged a hotel for a week.

Claremont Fire Chief Rick Bergeron said Thursday that Stevens and Scott Kenniston were burned when their only escape route was cut off by a fast-moving fire. They were taken to Brigham and Women’s where foundation members were waiting. Stevens stayed a week while Kenniston was transferred to Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, Vt., where he also was met by city firefighters. Both men are recovering.

“They did an incredible job taking care of our guy when he was in the hospital and taking care of his family,” said Bergeron. “As a department, as well as me personally, we were quite touched by their efforts.”

Kennedy and Edward Walsh died Wednesday fighting a blaze in a four-story brownstone in Boston. Bergeron said he and others in his 22-member department will attend their funerals.

At the foundation, Kennedy stood out for the enthusiasm and joy he brought to a difficult, sometimes emotionally draining undertaking. For the past 11 years, the foundation has worked with the three major burn units in Boston to help burn victims - firefighters and civilians alike - and their families.

On their own time, and with the help of donations, these firefighters provide emotional support, help defray travel and living expenses and handle some of the logistics for families who might need to stay in Boston for an extended period. Kennedy had a way with the kids he visited at Shriners Hospital, said Phil Skrabut, a board member at the foundation.

“He connected with the children right off the bat,” Skrabut said. “He was just a very happy guy and a big kid and he had a huge, huge heart.”

The fire that injured Stevens and Kenniston was “eerily similar” to the one that killed Kennedy and Walsh, Bergeron said. Their path of exit was cut off by a fast-moving fire and a condition had developed without them knowing it: A door between the first floor and basement had burned through, allowing flames to get under the firefighters.

“We go into these buildings in cities all over the country and it doesn’t matter if it’s a city of a thousand or a city of a million,” Bergeron said. “These guys go into these buildings, and take the data that’s given to them and use it to the best of their ability to make as safe a fire attack as possible. But there are always those unknowns that change conditions rapidly.”

“It comes full circle,” burn foundation board member Steve Turley said of Kennedy’s death. “He answered the last call to go in and save people and he actually saved people from being victims and paid the ultimate price for that.”

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