Late in the evening of June 18, 2007, Firehouse.Com began receiving reports of a tragedy in the city of Charleston, S.C.
Late in the evening of June 18, 2007, Firehouse.Com began receiving reports of a tragedy in the city of Charleston, S.C. Rumors swirled that a large fire had claimed the lives of several firefighters, although the exact number was still unknown. By the next morning, the smoke had cleared and the tragic facts were laid bare: nine firefighters had perished inside the Sofa Super Store. Here are the events that followed, and what's happened since the deadly and tragic blaze.
June 19: Word spreads that nine firefighters were killed in a fire at a South Carolina sofa store and warehouse the night before. "Nine brave, heroic, courageous firefighters of the city of Charleston have perished fighting fire in a most courageous and fearless manner, carrying out their duties," says Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. Later on, the weight of the tragedy sinks in as the names of the nine men are released.
June 20: Mourners begin to flock to the doors of Charleston fire stations, bringing flowers and cards. Among the things left is a poem dedicated to the memories of the firefighters. A store employee talks about his dramatic rescue by a firefighter whose name he wouldn't know for months.
June 21: Just a few days after the blaze, questions are already beginning to arise about whether proper procedure was followed. Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten rules on the deaths of the nine firefighters, citing smoke inhalation and extensive burns. Mayor Joseph Riley says he is confident the department followed proper procedures, but an investigation is necessary. It is revealed that the sofa store had no sprinklers and was exempt from new state building codes. As more details emerge about what went on inside the burning sofa store, Chief Rusty Thomas sits down with Firehouse.Com Writer Susie Nicol Kyle to talk about the pain left by the firefighters' absence. Some reflect on the deaths as nationwide, departments recognize Fire and EMS Safety Stand Down . A brother of one of the Charleston 9 talks about his loss.
June 22: Thousands flock to Charleston for a memorial service to honor the fallen firefighters. A line of flag-draped caskets stretches out in front of the North Charleston Coliseum. Firehouse.Com Reporter Susie Nicol Kyle liveblogs the ceremony. Frantic phone calls alerting authorities to the blaze are made public when the 911 tapes are released.
June 23: It's revealed that the fire that claimed the lives of the Charleston 9 started in the sofa store's loading dock area . However, officials warn the investigation is far from over.
June 25: Firehouse.Com Writer Susie Nicol Kyle offers an in-depth look at the bond the fallen firefighters shared in her story Charleston Firefighters Lived, Died Together
June 26: First chapters of the tragedy begin to close as the firefighters are laid to rest . Meanwhile, the investigation gets more complicated as it's revealed that Charleston's safety guidelines differed from federal safety guidelines. Susan Nicol Kyle reported that investigators from NIST were on the scene, collecting data that could be used in the event of a technical probe.
June 28: With all 9 of the fallen Charleston firefighters buried, a team of experts headed to Charleston to care for the brothers they left behind. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation offered its support to local grief counselors to help deal with the aftermath of the June 18 tragedy.
August 10: Charleston Mayor Riley selects a team of six fire-rescue professionals to take an in-depth look how the deadly blaze was handled. The team was to take a close look at department procedures to see what, if anything, needed to be changed or improved upon. Also, the release of more than 900 radio transmissions by the city of Charleston made public the last words of the fallen firefighters.
August 17: The preliminary panel appointed by Mayor Riley releases its recommendations. The group calls for the appointment of safety officer and an assistant to the chief.