Fire departments remember Charleston 9; use tragedy to shape better procedures


LEXINGTON, S.C. (WSPA) – Fire departments across the country are remembering and honoring the lives of nine men who were killed while fighting a fire at a furniture store in Charleston.

The Sofa Super Store Fire may have happened 12 years ago but the tragedy still hits very close to home for many departments across the state. The tragedy is still used to shape better policies and procedures to protect our firefighters.

The death of the nine firefighters, who were simply responding to a routine call, shocked many, but it also sparked the need for change.

Several state and national agencies studied the fire thoroughly to determine what went wrong.

In a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the lack of automated sprinkler’s and a build up of gas in the ceiling contributed to the fire spreading so quickly.

The fire also revealed the need for improved communication skills and updated firefighting procedures.

Chief Mark Davis of the Lexington Fire Department was the Deputy Chief of the Charleston Fire Department on June 18, 2007. Chief Davis briefly touched on the impact the fire has had on fire departments.

“It sent shock waves across the fire fighting community across the world. It’s been used as a teaching tool of what not to do, how to stay prepared, how to stay on top of strategies and tactics just like any business you have to move with the times and you have to have the appropriate man power.”

According to the State Fire Marshal, since the Sofa Super Store Fire firefighters have been trained extensively on fire dynamics and behavior, incident management and self-rescue.

The analysis of the fire is used to improve fire service while preventing another tragedy.

The report makes several recommendations including establishing proper ventilation procedures like checking a ceiling’s tiles and enforcing building codes.

The study found that the lack of automated sprinklers prevented the fire from being contained to one room. Many departments and organizations across the state have been pushing for the state to adopt a stricter sprinkler system mandate.

Captain Daniel Byrne with the Burton Fire District has also been very vocal about enforcing sprinkler mandates.

“There is nothing like the knowledge of going into a burning building watching how quick and how fast it can burn and seeing tragedy to take that and apply that and your eyes will pick up on different things and you may be able to prevent that. But regrettably here in South Carolina one lesson we didn’t learn was the importance of sprinkler systems.

Furniture stores began to be included in the International Building Code’s sprinkler system mandate in 2015.

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