The Charleston 9: "We will never forget"

by Tessa Spencer

By Tessa

CHARLESTON, S. C. (WCIV) -Standing guard, next to a flag flying at half mast, three firemen stand stoic and in reverence of their fallen brothers.

Speak to anyone who remembers June 18, 2007, and they will tell you that it doesn't seem like five years have passed since the Sofa Super Store fire.

Officials say that the blaze started on the loading dock, igniting packing material and discarded furniture before engulfing the entire store in flames and smoke.

Nine Charleston firefighters did not make it out. The roof of the building collapsed on top of them.

Since the tragedy, the Charleston Fire Department has continued to make sure that new techniques and systems have been implemented to ensure each firefighter's safety.

"The biggest way we can honor them and even after five years is to continue moving forward like we're doing, making our environment safer for the firefighters and continuing with the training and the advancements that we've made the last five years," says interim Charleston fire chief Franklin Finley.

Mayor Joe Riley agrees. He says the hard work of Chief Carr and his staff since the fire has paid huge dividends.

"The fire departments of the region now speak the same language, have the same equipment, use the same hoses, have the same process, have the same incident command system. It's become seamless."

As an example, members of the department finished a survival training program this past Sunday. The techniques they learned will help them to save their own lives should they become lost in a fire.

Charleston's newly appointed fire chief, Karen Brack, will take over the reigns starting August first.

"I think she's going to keep the department moving in the right direction," says CFD spokesman, Mark Ruppel.

That direction includes growing the department during "a time when other departments are slowing down."