After the Ordeal, Firefighters Talk of Charleston Fire

The memories of that fateful night, however, have not waned.CHARLESTON, S.C. -- "I was just as lost." That's how Engine 6's Engineer William "Billy Bob" Kilcoyne felt after he was grabbed by a frantic firefighter who was running out of air while...


The memories of that fateful night, however, have not waned.

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- "I was just as lost."

That's how Engine 6's Engineer William "Billy Bob" Kilcoyne felt after he was grabbed by a frantic firefighter who was running out of air while battling the fire inside the Sofa Super Store.

It's been nearly three months since a massive blaze claimed nine firefighters here. The memories of that fateful night, however, have not waned.

Other firefighters may not have made it out of the store if it hadn't been for Kilcoyne's actions.

Earlier this week, he recalled the events of that night in June as if it were yesterday.

His engine crew was originally dispatched to fill in at another station, but their assignment changed a few times while they were en route. "When we saw the smoke, we just knew we were going to go."

His captain and the firefighter hopped off the truck immediately, and headed inside. Kilcoyne grabbed a pike pole and walked into darkness.

"It was so thick. It was dark as night. You couldn't see anything."

Kilcoyne started following a hose as he went further into the furniture store. "I could feel the heat. Then, someone was pulling. They grabbed me in the left side, saying they were lost and running out of air...In that moment, the hose was gone. I was just as lost."

He walked around in circles, and managed to find it. "There was furniture on top of hose..."

As they made their way toward the door, they suddenly heard the sounds of the engines running. "It was the best sound we've ever heard. We took off running. He said 'thank you, thank you.' "

Kilcoyne turned and went right back inside. It wasn't long before another firefighter, his captain, panicking that he was running out of air, grabbed the low pressure hose on his mask.

He managed to keep his mask intact as he led his captain out of the building, tripping over furniture as they struggled in the darkness.

Kilcoyne believes he just happened to be in the right place at the right time to lead his comrades out of harm's way.

As he was recounting the events, his company was dispatched for alarm bells. Within seconds, he was donning his turnout gear and jumping into the engine.


WCIV TV Video of William "Billy Bob" Kilcoyne

BATALLION CHIEF RELATES ROLE IN RESCUE OF CIVILIAN

Battalion Chief Raymond Lloyd was teaching a class at a fire station on James Island on June 18 when he heard the call for the Super Sofa Store fire. When he heard the first officer advise it was a trash fire outside the building, he went back to the task at hand.

When he heard more units being dispatched, he left the station -- located about 15 minutes from the store -- and headed toward the column of heavy smoke, visible from several miles away.

When he was alerted that a civilian trapped in the building was banging on a wall, he and three St. Andrews firefighters headed to the back of the burning structure.

Lloyd said they attempted to pull an air conditioner out of the building to free the man, but it didn't budge.

After making the first cut in the siding, the man stuck his hand out of the small hole. "I told him: "get back and get low, and we'll get you out.'"

The crew used tools to cut and peeled back the metal. The man then stuck out his head.

Lloyd said it bothered him that the smoke conditions had changed. When they arrived and made the hole, smoke poured out. As they worked, the smoke disappeared.

The hole was enlarged enough for the worker to crawl out. "He was scared. There was soot on his face, nose. His eyes were bloodshot."

Lloyd said the man assured him he was in the room alone.

The fourth generation firefighter still thinks about his nine brothers who didn't make it out.


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