Bill Honors Victims of 2014 Back Bay Fire

BOSTON – Recently, State Senator Nick Collins testified on S. 1554, An Act implementing the Recommendations of the Walsh-Kennedy Commission Report, before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee hearing. Sen. Collins filed the legislation after chairing the Commission that developed the recommendation through public hearings, victim testimony, public comments, and stakeholder input.

The bill would implement those recommendations from the special commission created and named in the wake of a horrific tragedy that occurred on March 26, 2014 in Boston in which an unpermitted welding operation caused a fire which ultimately led to the tragic death of two Boston Firefighters, Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh, and Firefighter Michael Kennedy, as well as injuries to 18 others.

The language would increase fines and penalties for failing to follow regulations like pulling permits. S. 1554 also creates a standard certification program for those seeking to perform hot work, including an electronic database to check certification status of an employee, certification cards that can be requested as proof of certification, and continued education. Finally, the bill directs the Department of Fire Safety to establish a public notification system so that consumers and insurance agencies can check the safety records of those performing hot works.

“Some of the things that I think, beyond the fines, that we really need to think about and some other states do have that we don’t, is defining criminal negligence and creating a pathway to hold violators criminally liable for their actions,” said Senator Nick Collins. “I support this bill in an effort to increase public safety in the Commonwealth, protect our first responders, and hold individuals and organizations accountable for knowingly endangering the lives and property of others.”

Boston Fire Department Commissioner John Dempsey said “The fines are so minimal that smaller companies, if they roll the dice, the fine is so little, if they get caught it’s cheaper to pay the fine than it is to hire a firewatch or maybe even pull permit. So, I believe by increasing the fines, this will get their attention.”

Michael O’Reilly, legislative agent for Boston Firefighters Local 718, said “As long as it’s cheaper to pay the fine than it is to do the right thing, we have potential to see tragedies like this happen again.”

The bill will now be reviewed by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

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