'Charleston 9' Remembered: A Timeline of Events

Late in the evening of June 18, 2007, Firehouse.Com began receiving reports of a tragedy in the city of Charleston, S.C.


September 5: For the first time ever, the owner of the Sofa Super Store speaks out about how he's been affected by the June 18 blaze. "I went from having the perfect life that couldn't have been better to total misery now," Herb Goldstein said.

September 14: Engine 6 Engineer William "Billy Bob" Kilcoyne talks to Firehouse.Com. If it weren't for Kilcoyne's heroic efforts the death count would have been more than nine.

September 18: On the three-month anniversary of the blaze, Charleston Mayor Riley issues his report to the city on the status of the investigation into the fire. "We want to learn and we want others to learn from this tragic incident," he says.

October 17: Phase 1 of a report from a panel of fire experts called on by Mayor Riley is released. Chief Rusty Thomas said he was ready to get to work on changes suggested.

December 3: The city of Charleston will pay $3,160 in fines but admits no wrongdoing in the fatal fire. Citations accuse the city of failing to enforce requirements on protective gear and breathing equipment. The city was also faulted for its written procedures for command at fires. Charleston had initially faced four charges, but was only fined for two as a result of a controversial settlement. "This settlement is a travesty," said president of the International Association of Fire Fighters union Harold Shaitberger. He said the city should have spent time improving the department, not negotiating the settlement.

January 10: The Charleston Fire Department releases a report detailing changes they have made since the sofa store fire. The department announced that new breathing apparatus and turnout gear were ordered. Additionally, a new pumper and five-inch hose had been purchased. Members of the panel of experts selected by Mayor Riley said they were pleased with the progress that had been made. "Things take time, and some things take longer than others," said panel chairman Gordon Routley.

March 3: Charleston Fire Chief Rusty Thomas says despite criticism over how the fire was handled, "I will not leave here." Thomas' critics say they question whether he can do a thorough job revamping the department. "He needs to go," says president of the South Carolina Professional Firefighters Association Michael Parrotta.

May 14: Chief Rusty Thomas announces his resignation from the department, saying it was best for he and his family for him to step down. Mayor Riley said that Thomas' departure should not be seen as an admission of responsibility. Also, two families of fallen firefighters file suit against the sofa store's owner, several manufacturers and other companies accusing them in the deaths of their family members. Three other families had already filed similar lawsuits.

May 15: The second half of a report put together by the mayor-appointed team of fire experts is released. The report cites water issues, inadequate training and the culture of the department, among other things. An emotional chief accepted responsibility for the lives that were lost, saying: "I'm so sorry that myself or somebody could not have done something differently that night to bring back those nine guys." That same day, a shaken Thomas shares details about his fallen crewmembers last moments with the families they left behind.

May 21: Mayor Riley announces that Assistant Chief Ronnie Classen will take over as acting chief when Thomas leaves his post in June. Classen has been with the department since 1971.