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Boston fire Lt. dies saving others

BOSTON, June 24 -- A Boston fire lieutenant died Friday while saving colleagues trapped and disoriented in a smoky, nine-alarm warehouse fire on the Boston waterfront, which authorities said may have been set.

Lt. Stephen Minehan, a father of four, apparently became lost in the sprawling, vacant Rapids Furniture warehouse that went up in flames on a pier in the city's historic Charlestown section.

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Fire Commissioner Martin Pierce said when all firefighters were ordered out of the burning building because the roof was about to collapse, Minehan returned to help get out several of his men who apparently were disoriented in the smoke and flames.

The trapped firefighters were found and rescued, but Minehan died in the effort.

'We believe he might have got lost in the heavy smoke and fire conditions and perished in that way,' Pierce said. 'He died doing what he loved to do.'

Minehan's body was removed from the smoldering ruins more than seven hours after the fire started just after midnight.

Six other firefighters were injured, two critically. The two most seriously injured were flown by Coast Guard helicopter to a special oxygen chamber at the Norwalk (Conn.) Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

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The others were treated at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston City Hospital and released.

Some 200 firefighters battled the blaze as heavy smoke choked parts of the city, closing roads and causing traffic jams on the central traffic artery and the Mystic-Tobin Bridge that carries traffic in and out of the city to the north.

The cause of the fire was not immediately determined, but officials said a burning boat was spotted beneath the piershortly before the flames broke out so they were investigating the possibility of arson.

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