Skip to comments.Blaze engulfs furniture warehouse, killing 9 firefighters (Charleston, SC)
Posted on 06/19/2007 5:09:17 AM PDT by Livin_large
Fire swept through a furniture warehouse, collapsing the building's roof and claiming the lives of nine firefighters in a disaster the mayor described Tuesday as "difficult to fathom or quantify."
"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," Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley said at a morning news conference. "To all of their loved ones, our heart goes out to them."
Two employees in the building were rescued from the blaze, which broke out at about 7 p.m. Monday in the Sofa Super Store and warehouse, Riley said.
Overnight, firefighters, police officers and other rescue workers saluted as the bodies were carried from the warehouse.
"To lose nine is just a tragedy of immense proportions," Riley said. "To lose nine is just unbelievable."
Riley said the county coroner planned to disclose the names of the dead. The cause of the fire was under investigation, but Riley said arson was not suspected. He said the blaze apparently started in a storage area but was unsure whether there were sprinklers in the building.
Witnesses said the store's roof collapsed, throwing debris over about two-dozen rescue workers. Onlookers were hit with flying ash.
(Excerpt) Read more at thestate.com ...
Oh how awful
Aa friend up here with Greer FD called me just now, they can’t find out anything and he’s asking me. My boss’ son is Charleston FD engine 8, we don’t know what company responded to the fire. I haven’t heard anything from my boss yet, pray her son is OK.
Anybody in Chas have any idea what station responded to the fire?
I recall several years ago when we lost many firefighters in a warehouse fire in Worcester, MA. The funeral was huge. I hope these guys get similar treatment.
Prayers out to the families. RIP, Charleston firefighters.
I’m seeing now it was the West Ashley store that burned.
Hoping that means he’s OK- I think his engine company is downtown.
The identities will be coming shortly. We had a loss in our immediate family. Thank you for your kind thoughts.
I am so sorry for your loss. Prayers for your family.
I am so sorry. May God be with you in this time, and with all of the families.
So very sorry for your loss and the loss of the other firefighters. May God comfort and console as all of you deal with the loss.
Can someone in the know explain what standard policy is when fighting a fire in an apparently unoccupied building? Why send nine healthy people in search of hypothetical victims? This seems like such a waste.
“Can someone in the know explain what standard policy is when fighting a fire in an apparently unoccupied building? Why send nine healthy people in search of hypothetical victims? This seems like such a waste.”
I agree. Once it’s determined that there’s no one to rescue in a building, especially a commercial building, I see no reason to risk firefighters’ lives trying to save contents that are going to be written off by insurers any way. You fight the fire enough to keep it from spreading.
It wasn’t unoccupied. At least 2 and possibly 4 employees were rescued.
My boss forwarded me this email from her daughter-in-law:
I would like to first like to say that Bill is SAFE/UNINJURED!
Last night 9 local fire fighters with the City of Charleston Fire Department have lost their lives in the line of duty after a sofa store caught on fire.
I would like to thank each of you that has called to check on our family.
Bill was NOT on duty last night but did go in. He didn’t get home until after 4 am. 2 fire stations lost BOTH of their crews. Station #16 and #19.
Please take a moment to pray for those families that lost loved ones.
The Fireman’s Prayer
When I am called to duty, God,
Where’re the flames may rage,
Give me strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
Before it is too late,
Or save some older person from
The horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert,
And hear the weakest shout
And quickly and effectively
To put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling
And give the best in me.
To guard my every neighbor
And protect his property;
And if according to Your will,
I have to lose my life
Please bless with Your protecting hand
My children and my wife.
The firefighters had already saved some folks, and from what I've heard were trying to clear the building of other people, save what they could, and prevent the fire from spreading (there was a gas station next door among other things). My understanding is that an assessment had been made that the building was good for five minutes, but the ceiling had the catastrophic collapse after only two.
The mayor mentioned on the news this morning that the double ceiling probably concealed the extent of the fire in the upper part of the building from the inside.
I expect that the department will take a close look at firefighting tactics after this.
Firefighters broke a hole in the wall, entered and rescued 2 employee’s, re-entered to verify no more employee’s were left inside when the roof collapsed.
Do not question the professionals, when you have no concept of what is going on. Lack of information made your post sound negative and stupid.
You have a nice day too!
I disagreee. Losing that many heroes is shocking and it was a fair question. Asking "Why?" in the face of death is a human reaction.
Fair enough, but all too often the next step is asking "Who should we blame?", when the real culprit is Murphy's Law or however you choose to personalize sheer bad luck.
In an emergency situation like that there's often very little time to ponder your options. It's also one of the major factors in the "fog of war".
I understand but “Why?” is a natural response to the shock of losing so many at once. I don’t think it was the start of a “blame game”. I thought the same thing and wondered what procedure is. And I KNOW they clear the building as soon as possible. It’s just a shocking loss.
They’ve released the names of the firefighters who lost their lives:
Capt. William “Billy” Hutchinson, 48; Capt. Mike Benke, 49; Capt. Louis Mulkey, 34; Engineer Mark Kelsey, 40; Engineer Bradford “Brad” Baity, 37; Assistant Engineer Michael French, 27; James “Earl” Drayton, 56; Brandon Thompson, 27; and Melven Champaign, 46.
Rest in peace.
Three Captains. That’s Leadership by example in my book.
“Capt. William Billy Hutchinson, 48; Capt. Mike Benke, 49; Capt. Louis Mulkey, 34; Engineer Mark Kelsey, 40; Engineer Bradford Brad Baity, 37; Assistant Engineer Michael French, 27; James Earl Drayton, 56; Brandon Thompson, 27; and Melven Champaign, 46.
Rest in peace.”
Seconded, heartily. It’s been a very sad day.
Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers.
The latest information I have is that there was a 911 call indicating more people inside. The nine firefighters were sent in to cover the space in the minimum time. Unfortunately, the minimum wasn't short enough.
Also, the blueprints for the building that the fire department had didn't show a modification that essentially partitioned the ceiling area into three layers. There was little flame evident from the top, or from inside...it was spreading among pockets in between.
The lack of building sprinklers (legal but stupid) probably also contributed to the tragedy.
Please remember this is all hearsay, but I believe it's accurate.
These firefighters of the Charleston Fire Department were heroes, plain and simple. The sad fact is that sometimes heroes don't survive. However, they will certainly be remembered, with love.
Amazing that this happened at a warehouse in that FDs I'm familiar with do more to contain the fire than actually go inside a non-residential structure to fight the fire once everyone is out of there.
Dear God, Through the intercession of our patron, Saint Florian, have mercy on the souls of our comrades who have made the supreme sacrifice in the performance of their duty, and on all who have gone before us after years of faithful discharge of their responsibilities which now rest on ourselves. Give us Grace to prepare each day for our own summons to Thy tribunal of justice. Into Thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit. Withersoever Thou callest me, I am ready to go. Merciful Father of all men, save me from all bodily harm, if it be Thy will, but above all, help me to be loyal and true, respectful and honorable, obedient and valiant. Thus fortified by virtue, I shall have no fear, for I shall then belong to Thee and shall never be separated from Thee.
God bless all who go in harms way.
There’s a trust fund set up for the families btw...
If it was “unoccupied”, that means no one is in it. Obviously the four employees who were rescued would argue that with whomever was quoted.
Each situation is are different. General rule of thumb is:
“Risk little to save little
Risk a lot to save a lot
Risk nothing to save nothing”
If there is a reasonable likelihood of viable persons being in there, they are going to risk a lot. For no people or a “recovery”, it would have been defensive I’m sure...
It’s a horrible tragedy. Some just don’t realise that changes to a building should be sent to their fire department. God give their families strength and grace.
Pretty much all of the precincts had a hand in response to the fire.
Symapthies to the families of these men.
But I thought everyone knew that fire can’t melt steel.
Well, I did the artwork and our company will be printing and donating 500 t-shirts for them to raise money for the families. We were also going to do a couple thousand for the local Clearchannel radio stations, they were to donate the proceeds to a college fund for the children of the firemen but they canceled, not sure why, but probably budget reasons or fund logistics.
You might try calling Mayor Riley’s office, they might be able to help.
Otherwise Monday I’ll email the fireman we are doing the shirts for (my boss’ son) the lost men were all friends of his. I’m sure he could point me in the right direction if you don’t find anything out by then.
I just wanted to drop you all a note and say thanks again for your thoughts and prayers. The outpouring of support from everyone has been really overwhelming, and very comforting.
The memorial yesterday was unbelievably moving and uplifting. It was truly a credit to the city of Charleston, and the other folks involved.
For me though, the most emotional part was the procession to the Coliseum. The feeling was just indescribable. A column of emergency vehicles stretching down the freeway further than the eye could see in each direction, lights blazing...moving slowly down the highway, with the traffic completely stopped in the other direction. The scattered parties of people by each side of the road, waving or saluting, and thanking the firefighters. The signs, art and other tributes to the fallen by the wayside and hanging from bridges and fences. It’s something I’ll truly never forget. There were no dry eyes in our vehicle, including the three firemen with us.
I know our family members affected by the tragedy were helped immensely by the ceremony yesterday, and the time spent with the firefighters afterwards. Keep your firefighters in your thoughts, they’re special people.
Thanks for posting.