CFD remembers the past, looks ahead to future

By Nikki

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) Tuesday marks the sixth anniversary of the Sofa Super Store fire. Nine brave firefighters lost their lives when the building collapsed. The images of that chaotic day are hard to forget; the lives lost even harder.

"Any time there's a firefighter fatality, it reaches out and grabs us very hard," said Ron Siarnicki, the executive director for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

His organization has worked closely with the Charleston Fire Department after the tragedy of June 18, 2007.

"We not only were able to help deal with the line of duty death, but we were also able to help them as they began to recognize elements they wanted to change and rebuild," said Siarnicki.

Working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice, the foundation created response teams in every state.

"Those teams were set up to go in and help a department when a line of duty death occurs, to pull resources together to manage funeral arrangements, the recovery of the department, and most of all the rebuilding of the lives of families," said Siarnicki.

From the tragedy of the Sofa Super Store fire came a new opportunity said Siarnicki.

"We have a program called 'Everyone Goes Home' which is an initiative by the foundation to reduce line of duty deaths and injuries," he said. "We worked very closely with the Charleston Fire Department to institute the 16 firefighter life safety initiatives throughout the organization."

It's all part of a joint effort to learn from the past, he said.

"In the past six years there's been a major transformation within the Charleston Fire Department. A lot of that as a result of a commitment from Mayor Riley and then-Chief Carr and the new chief."

The department's eagerness to move forward is chronicled in the foundation's new documentary, "The Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice."

"Their own members in this documentary talk about how they were and how they are now and the commitment the town and department have to those firefighters safety, well being, and most of all survival," said Siarnicki. "There is a great story to be told about how that department dealt with a traumatic occurrence."

The foundation's documentary will air on June 18 at 7:30 p.m. on ABCNews4.