PEABODY — The thing about fighting fires is that you can have the best equipment in the world and the top professionals doing everything right, and still, people die.
That fact came back loud and clear to the men of the Peabody Fire Department on Wednesday as they heard the news that two Boston firefighters, Lt. Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Michael R. Kennedy, had been killed in a Back Bay blaze. It was a tragedy that echoed Peabody’s own loss of firefighter Jim Rice on December 22, 2011, as he worked a fire in a three-unit apartment building on Hancock Street.
“I saw it on the news,” said Peabody firefighter Adam Skelton of Wednesday’s tragedy. “It’s not easy to watch that. I know what most of these guys are feeling.”
“There are a lot of similarities,” added Peabody Capt. Dan Dean, who expects to see up to 50 of his fellow Peabody firefighters at the wakes and funerals for Walsh and Kennedy. Dean was working with the veteran Rice, a husband and father, on the day he died.
“He was one of the nicest guys in the department. I never heard a bad thing about him. And an excellent athlete,” Dean said.
“He was my age,” Skelton said, shaking his head.
Rice remains a presence all over the department, his face on posters and bumper stickers, his locker still maintained and memorial bracelets available at the desk. He was the 10th Peabody firefighter to die in the line of duty. The first, John Dorin, lost his life in 1876.
The Peabody crews know pretty much what their Boston colleagues are experiencing, including a visit from CISD, Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, a team of chiefs, firefighters and counselors.
After Rice’s death, a CISD team visited Peabody. In the days that followed, there was still more counseling for those who wanted it.