Heroes lost in Sofa Super Store fire honored today

Charleston firefighters began a 24-hour watch at the memorial at 12 a.m. (Provided)

Another year. Another date those living in or near Charleston will never forget.

Today marks nine years since the fire at the Sofa Super Store in West Ashley claimed the lives of nine of the Lowcountry's bravest firefighters.

Federal investigators tasked with looking into the cause of the fire and providing recommendations for the future found the fire started in a pile of packing material and discarded furniture near the loading dock of the store.

"The fire spread quickly within the loading dock and moved into both the retail showroom and warehouse spaces," the report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology states.

Investigators were able to conclude that before the front windows were broken out by members of the Charleston Fire Department, the blaze "was still ventilation limited and its growth was slowed by the lack of oxygen."

When those windows were broken out, oxygen hit the fire and the intensity increased at a rapid rate.

Since the Sofa Super Store fire, the Charleston Fire Department has implemented several new policies aimed at safety. Many of those policies and things learned from studies of the tragic incident have also been shared or implemented at other fire departments on local and national levels.

At 12 a.m. this morning Charleston fire personnel began a 24-hour watch at the flagpole at the memorial site. A special ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. tonight at the memorial site. Members of the community are welcome to visit the memorial throughout the day.

Heroes lost in the fire

Engine 15 - Captain Louis Mulkey - 34 - 11 1/2 years of service

Engine 16 - Captain Mike Benke - 49 - 30 years of service

Engine 16 - Firefighter Melven Champaign - 46 - 2 years of service

Engine 19 - Captain William "Billy" Hutchinson - 48 - 30 years of service

Engine 19 - Engineer Bradford "Brad" Baity - 37 - 9 years of service

Engine 19 - Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton - 56 - 32 years of service

Tower 5 - Engineer Mark Kelsey - 40 - 12 1/2 years years of service

Tower 5 - Engineer Michael French - 27 - 1 1/2 years of service

Tower 5 - Firefighter Brandon Thompson - 27 - 4 years of service

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