SALEM — The computer message board in the lobby of the Salem Waterfront Hotel has only a few words, but it says a lot: “Welcome IAFF Firefighters.”
Firefighters from around the country started arriving yesterday at the hotel on Pickering Wharf, which is providing more than 100 free rooms over several days to members of the International Association of Firefighters coming to Boston for the funeral services of the two Boston firefighters killed in last week’s nine-alarm inferno on Beacon Street.
They have come to this Salem hotel from Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia and other states.
“It’s a real nice thing to do,” said A.J. Belille, 31, the only member of the Addison Fire Protection District to make the journey from Illinois.
Although it was expensive to buy a plane ticket, rent a car and make other arrangements, Belille said he felt he had to come to Boston to pay final respects to the two Boston firefighters, Lt. Edward Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy, who lost their lives.
“It’s the job,” Belille said as he walked to his car in his dress blues yesterday afternoon, headed to Walsh’s wake in Watertown. “We all do the same job.”
Mike Rockett, co-owner of the hotel, said it didn’t take long to make a decision about offering complimentary rooms once he heard of the thousands of firefighters coming to Boston. The hotel even posted a notice on Facebook and helped secure rooms at other hotels.
“It was the right thing to do,” he said.
Last night, a number of firefighters from out of state gathered in the hotel’s pub, greeted by Salem and Peabody firefighters.
They came to Boston for the same reasons.
“I feel it’s important to go for the family,” said Bob Welch, 47, a firefighter and drum major from the Manchester, N.H., Fire Department. “We never forget the families ... Hopefully, if something happens to me, my parents aren’t looking out over nothing.”