THE DEATH of anyone who works to keep the public safe is a tragedy, but Monday's loss of two firefighters is a shot to the heart.
Lt. Robert Neary, who was set to retire from the force, and Daniel Sweeney, son of retired fire captain David Sweeney, lost their lives after a blaze at a Kensington warehouse that spread to nearby buildings.
Such a tragedy hits hard because it reminds us of the singular dangers of the job, and the guts of those who take it on. After all, a fire is never benign. It is trickier and more ruthless than the worst criminal. (The two men had returned to the site of the blaze to check it after it had been declared under control.)
And all firefighters have to battle this enemy is a hose, their skill and their courage.
The circumstances of this particular blaze is galling, since the condition of the warehouse had been the subject of numerous complaints after the owner abandoned plans to convert it to apartments. Its owner, based in New York, owed $60,000 in back taxes. The city had recently filed to have the building sold at sheriff sale.
This tragedy underscores how such buildings, neglected by absent or uncaring owners, which are rife in this city, can become lethal and expensive weapons over time.
Maybe the deaths of these two men can help focus better attention on the city's ability to manage and control the dangers inherent in such properties.
Meanwhile, those wanting to remember these firefighters and the fallen heroes who have come before them should check out http://fallenheroesmemorialfund.org. It's an effort to build a more substantial memorial to the city's fallen police and firefighters in Franklin Park. A designer for the memorial is due to be chosen, and funds will need to be raised to complete it.
It's the chance to make a tangible contribution to these lost heroes, beyond our public grief.