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Deputy chief had to make fateful decision as fire raged

Deputy Fire Chief Joe Finn spoke to reporters after the fatal fire.
Deputy Fire Chief Joe Finn spoke to reporters after the fatal fire.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

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The moment came a few minutes into Wednesday’s raging fire, after the screams from two trapped Boston firefighters — Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy — grew silent.

Boston firefighters had pulled Kennedy’s severely injured body from the basement of 298 Beacon St. But they could not immediately get to Walsh.

As fiery embers rained and a fierce wind blew, Deputy Chief Joe Finn had to decide: Whether to risk the men’s lives to save a fallen colleague. Or to stand down.

“It was agonizing,’’ said Fire Commissioner John Hasson, of the decision Flynn made.

Finn, an unflappable presence under pressure, ordered the evacuation of the building even though Walsh was still not accounted for.

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