We have not forgotten
Firefighters Paul J. Cahill and Warren J. Payne were memorialized yesterday on the one-year anniversary of their deaths with the unveiling of two brass plaques installed on the outside wall of the firehouse, between garage bays where the firetrucks are parked.
"That's the first thing the firefighters are going to see when they back the apparatus in," Ladder 25 Captain Gerald Hogan said.
The ceremony drew about 100 people to the two-story brick building on Centre Street, including about a dozen of Cahill and Payne's family members, who stood gazing at the plaques as the strains of "Amazing Grace" were played on a lone bagpipe.
Dignitaries including Mayor Thomas M. Menino and City Councilor John M. Tobin Jr. joined firefighters' union president Edward Kelly and Kevin P. MacCurtain, the department chief, in making brief remarks.
"Today we all gather to remember that night when two courageous firefighters lost their lives," Menino said. "Firefighters Cahill and Payne gave their supreme sacrifice. We shall never forget. To the fam ilies, we shall never forget you, also."
Cahill and Payne were among the first firefighters to respond to the Tai Ho Mandarin and Cantonese restaurant on Aug. 29, 2007. Grease from the restaurant's kitchen exhaust system had seeped into the ceiling and ignited.
When the firefighters arrived, there were few visible flames and hardly any smoke.
But within minutes the blaze turned deadly.
Payne was killed when a fireball exploded from the ceiling. At 9:06 p.m., Payne's radio sounded a distress signal, indicating he was in mortal danger. Cahill succumbed to smoke inhalation after becoming disoriented in the kitchen.
In a further commemoration, at 9:06 last night, the Fire Department sounded an alarm on its radio system in honor of the men. At the signal, firefighters across the city drove fire engines from their bays and parked outside, lowered flags to half staff, and observed a moment of silence, fire officials said.
A cookout to thank neighborhood residents for their support after the deadly fire was canceled earlier this week by Fire Department brass, who said it was an inappropriate way to memorialize Cahill and Payne.
But yesterday lunch was served nonetheless by Tex's BBQ Express, a Dedham catering company, in a parking lot next to the firehouse, off city property.
One of the employees of Tex's was a friend of Cahill's.
After the plaques' unveiling, family members said they appreciated all that the West Roxbury firefighters had done to remember the two.
"They deserved it, Paul and Warren, and I think [the Engine 30 and Ladder 25 crews] did a nice job," Cahill's widow, Anne, said.
There was no sign of the controversy that has plagued the Fire Department since shortly after the firefighters' deaths, when autopsy results indicated Payne had cocaine in his system and Cahill had a blood-alcohol content of 0.27, more than three times the legal limit to drive in Massachusetts.
City officials and the firefighters' union have been engaged in a bitter contract dispute over the issue of mandatory drug and alcohol testing since the autopsy results became public.
MacCurtain, the chief of the department, focused his sentiments on the other legacies of Cahill and Payne, including a new city law requiring training and certification of all commercial kitchen grease-cleaning companies, the Fire Department's purchase of thermal imaging cameras, and added training on rapid rescue techniques.
"Paul Cahill and Warren Payne deserve nothing less than our utmost respect," MacCurtain said.
"They were lost while serving the people of this city."