NIOSH Releases Report on Charleston Sofa Super Store Fire

The NIOSH investigators made numerous suggestions after spending months probing the operations.  The long-awaited NIOSH investigation of the deadly Charleston furniture store -- released Thursday afternoon -- contains a multitude of suggestions but no...


The NIOSH investigators made numerous suggestions after spending months probing the operations.

 The long-awaited NIOSH investigation of the deadly Charleston furniture store -- released Thursday afternoon -- contains a multitude of suggestions but no surprises.

The June 18, 2007 fire claimed nine firefighters during operations inside the building that had been renovated repeatedly without permits or inspections.

NIOSH investigators, who spent months investigating the deadly blaze, pointed out training, water supply and communications issues among other things that led to the fateful outcome.

Charleston Fire Chief Tom Carr said his department has made many strides in the way it does business now. Safety is now at the forefront.

"I consider the NIOSH report a good document. There's nothing in it that we didn't know," he said about an hour after it was made public.

Carr, who took over the helm in November, added: "We've changed just about everything we do. We have new SOPs that include a new command structure."

They also are changing their mutual aid policy so the closest neighboring department will respond when necessary. They also will be training together as well.

Carr said obtaining FIRE Act and SAFER grants also have been a boost. In addition to rescue tools and firefighter safety equipment, they've used the money for tools and other items. SAFER funds allow them to hire additional personnel.

He said the vast majority of the issues raised by NIOSH have been addressed. "We've had a lot of things going on down here."

A number of those changes were started by former chief Rusty Thomas, who stepped down on the eve of the release of a highly critical investigation conducted by a panel of fire experts.

Carr said he is proud of the cooperation he's received since his arrival. Fire officials across the state and region have been very supportive.

But, the people he's most proud of are those in the Charleston Fire Department. "There are things to do, many things, but we're working on them together..."

Gordon Routley, who led the group that probed every aspect of the blaze, said he didn't expect there would be major differences in the two reports. "We exchanged information and talked a lot during our investigations. Obviously, they are writing for a different audience."

Routley also commended Charleston for its work since the deady blaze in 2007 that thrust it into an international spotlight.

"They've made great progress. They've addressed all the key points. Some things were addressed immediately after we arrived. Others have taken time. But, there are changes going on there. You can't do things overnight."

Routley and members of his panel have been involved in at least 40 presentations since publishing their analysis of the blaze. "Our purpose is to get the word out to as many people as possible. We've heard some say there are things that occurred in Charleston that also were happening in their departments. Hopefully, they are learning because that's what it's all about -- saving firefighters' lives..."

Among the NIOSH panel's suggestions were:

 

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