Second Set of Charleston Recommendations to be Released Soon

The task force will interview every firefighter involved at the fatal blaze in June.

The second set of recommendations for the Charleston Fire Department due to be released as early as this week will likely include additional steps to improve operations.

While Gordon Routley, chairman of the task force reviewing the incident, would not elaborate on specifics, he said the document will provide more analysis of staffing, firefighter health and safety, training and equipment.

The task force of fire service experts was selected to review the fire department following the deaths of nine firefighters.

"To date, we've been looking at the fire department and fire protection in Charleston pre-June 18," Routley said Saturday during an interview in Maryland. "Now, we're ready to move to an in-depth investigation about the fire."

Chief Rusty Thomas implemented the majority of the team's initial recommendations including changes to staffing and response to certain alarms.

Thomas, who was in Maryland last week for incident command training, said he is committed to making the necessary changes to better his department.

Other suggestions such as the hiring of additional personnel and equipment purchases will likely be phased in over the next two years.

During a recent interview, Mayor Joe Riley said residents are willing to spend the money to improve their fire department.

Routley believes the analysis is going well, and is impressed with the cooperation the group has received from the fire department, the city and Charleston citizens.

"We have a highly motivated team that works well together. We're totally absorbed by it. We all understand why we're doing what we're doing."

Routley said staying focused on the mission is paramount. "We know that everything we do or say is being commented on in blogs, by the news media and others. We're in the public spotlight."

Although they are not in Charleston full time, the work doesn't stop when they leave town. There are still e-mails, phone calls, notes to review and reports to write.

"It's so important to see this to the end. We need to know what occurred to make sure it's prevented from happening again."

The group has poured over a multitude of photographs and watched many videos of the blaze. "We're interviewing every single firefighter who was there during that first hour. We want to know who was where and what they were doing."

Routley said reconstructing that fateful evening is a vital part of the analysis. "We're not here to pick apart the actions of every single firefighter. We're doing this as one part of our review -- to get a timetable of events."

"I think it's important for them to know why we are doing the interviews..."