I was visiting family in Charleston & North Charleston right after that happened. That store was gutted and sickened me to know what had just happened in there.
It sucked back then thinking that it was likely a training and competency issue and this Fed.gov report substantiates my fears. Hopefully something can be implemented to prevent this tragedy in the future.
NIOSH seems to note a series of failings between the sofa store's failure to adhere to city code and the seeming complacency of the firefighters that combined to make this the perfect recipe for disaster.
It's a bad link.
But If I'm understanding what you are saying correctly, the pumps stopped pumping?
I've got one for you all:
My local FD doesn't roll an engine to car crashes. They roll the heavy rescue unit...but that doesn't have any fire suppression on it. Not even an extinguisher. You know, it's not like there is anything at crash scene's that might be leaking that is flammable like oh say, gasoline.
It's going to be a very sad day when they start cutting someone out of a car and spark a fire and everyone has to stand back and watch whoever was pinned get car-b-que'd.
The fire chief doesn't like them to roll an engine because he's anal retentive as all hell and doesn't want one to get scratched.
Sorry, off topic but I needed to vent that.
That is criminally negligent on the part of the chief and if someone gets hurt because of that I hope he spends time in jail.
Please shut the fuck up, you have no idea what you are talking about. The deaths in this fire had nothing to do with 'complacency' on the part of the firefighters. If I went into the 'Deployed' section and said that dead soldiers were 'complacent' I would probably get banned. Please show the same respect for MY dead brothers.
The link in the op didn't work, so I navigated to the front page and found the article. Based on the technical inaccuracies and lack of elaboration on the points made in the article I wouldn't make ANY assumptions on what some stupid reporter who doesn't have a clue about firefighting wrote. There is a link to the NIOSH report on the page, which I am reading now. Its 55 pages long and when I'm finished I'll post again.
Fire report draft released
NIOSH pinpoints several critical factors in sofa store blaze
By Ron Menchaca, Glenn Smith
The Post and Courier
Friday, May 9, 2008
Firefighters who battled the Sofa Super Store blaze lacked enough water and proper equipment to effectively do their jobs, and were undermined by a series of tactical errors that allowed the fire to spiral into an inferno that killed nine men, according to a draft federal report the city released Thursday.
Charleston firefighters battling the Sofa Super Store blaze used a variety of hoses. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said in its draft report issued Thursday that the firefighters did not have enough water to properly battle the massive blaze.
The 54-page document from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health describes a dire scene with moments of anguish, chaos, courage and heroism as firefighters struggled to control the fire and find the men who perished in the flames.
Along the way, crews violated a cardinal rule of firefighting: pour on enough water to gain the upper hand on a blaze and protect firefighters.
Water problems defined what happened that fatal night, the report reveals.
"Adequate water supply for the size of the structure and fuel loads inside was never established and adequate hose lines capable of attacking the fire with adequate fire streams were not deployed," the report says. "Water supply was a critical factor in the sequence of events leading up to the nine fatalities."
Among the report's key findings:
The fire came close to claiming the lives of at least six other firefighters.
The first firefighters inside had to wait nearly 15 minutes until other
firefighters got them water from a hydrant.
They instead fought the blaze with a limited supply of water aboard their truck.
The department relied on water hoses that were too small.
Firefighters inside the store noticed the roof trusses in the main showroom "glowing red from the intense heat." For years, federal reports have warned firefighters that truss-supported roofs exposed to extreme heat can collapse within minutes.
One of the first fire crews stopped to hook up to a fire hydrant that had been removed in 2004 after it was damaged in a traffic accident.
Fire Chief Rusty Thomas initially refused a neighboring department's offer of larger hoses and more modern equipment.
One of the hoses carried by firefighters standing at the face of the fire went limp and dry.
Several of the firefighters reported running out of air in their tanks. The city has since purchased airpacks that provide firefighters with larger oxygen supplies.
Lack of water wasn't the only problem that night. The report lists many other significant issues that contributed to what happened.
The sprawling sofa store did not meet city codes, lacked sprinklers and routinely stored trash and broken furniture near its loading dock, where investigators have said the fire originated. The fire department's "pre-plan" for the store did not note any unusual hazards.
The crew of one fire engine that was designated as rescue crew was ordered into the fight instead.
Investigators discovered 28 one-gallon cans of extremely flammable solvents inside the loading dock, which the report says may have fueled a vapor fire. "The flames appeared to float in the air and burned floor to ceiling. The water didn't appear to have any effect on the fire so the crew started to retreat."
Firefighters from different departments couldn't communicate at the fire because they used different radio dispatch systems.
After lost firefighters began calling for help over the radio, Thomas ordered the front windows of the store broken out to improve visibility inside. "The firefighters noted that air rushed inside the showroom after the windows were knocked out." Within a minute, turbulent dark, smoke was seen rolling from the windows, and the conditions deteriorated quickly.
Firefighters also pulled at least two small red booster lines into the store to fight the fire. These small, 1-inch hoses are intended for nuisance trash fires and most experts say they should never be used in any type of structure fire, especially one the size of the sofa store.
One of the booster lines advanced into the fire proved useless against the flames and caused firefighters to retreat, the report says. "The booster line did not have any effect on the fire so they backed the line out."
Thomas has denied that his firefighters used booster lines in the early stage of the fire inside the store. "I don't want nobody to think that the Charleston Fire Department put boosters on the Sofa Super Store to put fire out at the start of the fire," Thomas told The Post and Courier in an earlier interview. "We did not."
Investigators also found evidence that the polyester work uniforms worn by the firefighters who perished melted under high heat after their outer protective gear degraded. After the newspaper first reported the dangers of the department's polyester uniforms in the wake of the fire, the city immediately ordered them replaced.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley released the NIOSH report to the newspaper after notifying firefighters and the families of the nine men who died in the June 18 blaze.
"It is very important that everyone be aware even of this draft document so that this process is public and transparent."
NIOSH, a division of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducts investigations of firefighter line-of-duty deaths to formulate recommendations for preventing future deaths and injuries. The program does not find fault or place blame on fire departments, and its reports tend to be technical in nature in an effort to provide constructive lessons for those in the fire service.
The draft report released Thursday does not include a cause of the fire. That's still under investigation by federal authorities.
The final report from NIOSH is not expected for another three to four months, and Riley had considered delaying a report from a city-appointed panel until the federal report was complete. The mayor reversed course this week and announced that the independent panel's report would be released May 15.
NIOSH surprised everyone by sending out the draft of its report that arrived Thursday afternoon. The local firefighters union also received a copy of the report, said union president Roger Yow.
Yow said the union did not intend to release the report because it was accompanied by a letter from NIOSH noting that the report is only a draft for review purposes and is not intended for public release. But Yow said he spoke with Riley and understood the mayor's reasons for wanting the report released.
Riley said he considered the report to be in the public domain once it was mailed out.
Both the city, the union and the families of the fallen will now have the opportunity to comment on the report before it is finalized. The final version will include a list of recommendations and provide more context about how the actions of firefighters meshed with national best practices and guidelines.
My complacency remark was specifically about the details explicitly stated in the NIOSH report concerning the actions and inactions of the firefighters at that call. What they did, coupled with the building being out of code, led to the inevitable outcome.
The same thing happened in NC with a metal fire when the people putting out the fire were having success and they became complacent and didn't order an evacuation or call for back-up, then the old sprinkler system (which should have been disabled, considering the combustible metals stored under them) kicked on and spread the fire, causing the plant/factory to explode, killing people.
Furthermore, back when I used to wear a badge, there was a common theme that I found repeated often in the Army: Complacency Kills.
It's an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes it takes a tragedy before policies change or people learn, and like you said, their Chief/Captain has a lot to answer for.
Doesn't your County have guidelines on what apparatus rolls on rescue calls?
Perhaps paid departments are different but around here a rescue call even brings guys out of retirement to respond....
Here, they whenever there is a med call the fire truck follows the ambulance (or vice versa), hell last week, we had an elderly lady having chest pains and sure enough the ambulance and fire truck arrived together (and when I say fire truck, I mean the huge ass 75 ft long hook and ladder big mo-fo truck that the county has....)
Does NFPA say you need to run an engine to a crash? I'm not on the Fire Dept so I don't know much about NFPA other than it's a bunch of super restarted rules.
But the local Chief is a HUGE NFPA weenie. Amber lights on a fire truck? It's not a god damn wrecker for christ sakes. You want amber? Put an arrow stick on the back of it.
Yeah, SOP says their supposed to roll the engine. That pre-dates the current Chief.
He bitches everyone out if the engine rolls.
That happened many moons ago at my old department. They just dispatched two squads for an MVA, and when they got there things were starting to cook. They just had to sit back and watch and wait for an engine.
Needless to say the SOP's changed after that. I know that "nowadays" the chief there always makes sure a charged line is ready on any extrication.
ETA Its just pure incompitance if your chief thinks he doesnt need to dispatch an engine for an MVA. Heck, we have an engine for 95% of our calls where I work now, medical or fire. Better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.
Considering this man's "qualifications" and how he got the job to begin with, this comes more than a decade too late, especially for the firefighters that lost their lives and the city that has suffered under his lack of leadership.
Just because a man's father is a great chief doesn't mean he will be. From what I've seen and been told he's failed to bring the department into the 21st Century and expand to keep pace with the growth of the city and appears to be running things with the mindset that it's still a fairly small town.
The city should take a good, long and hard look at who they put in his spot because they've got a lot of fixing to do.
You do realize that amber has best all-around visability?
And I'm not sure if NFPA is the same but the ambulance standards allow arrow sticks to count as long as it's turned on automatically.
It could be an ALS truck as well........ I dunno... We have ALS engines that run medicals with the rescue......
I understand not rolling a engine... if you have a specialized apparatus for particular jobs/calls, but to not have some sort of fire suppression on extrications is just plain DUMB!!!!!!!
We have a QR that's our extrication/hazmat/technical rescue truck.... it has 450 gallons of water and two fire extinguishers..... It rolls to mva's along with a engine and rescue (ambulance)......
People will continue to arm chair this fire for years to come...... Like it or not it has caused more then a few agencies to step back and look at it's approach to fire attack on commercial buildings such as this furniture store........
As much as some of us hate it: pre-plan, pre-plan, pre-plan.............
I'm just sad that the firefighters died...
I don't care if amber is the most visible.
If someone doesn't see the several thousand pound vehicle with all the RED and WHITE flashing lights. Parked in the middle of the traffic lane, typically with several other vehicles also with multiple flashing lights parked around it and ends up hitting said several thousand pound vehicle....do you really think it would have mattered if there was an AMBER light?
I sure as shit don't.
As a firefighter in the Lowcountry and also as a firefighter who knew and worked with several of the guys that lost their lives, there were many things that went wrong on 6/18/07. Everything from training, command, and building code violations. There are many people to blame but it will never bring any of the HEROES back.
Read the report here:
The loss of even one firefighter is a tragedy the loss of 9 brings me to my knees. We almost
lost 3 when a floor collapsed because of a fire that had alot of pre burn before our departments
arrival. Its by the Grace of God we didnt lose any of them although one is still in the burn unit
in DC. All are expected to recover. We can Monday Morning Quarterback all day long and I read
the Draft at the firehouse during line up. If you are on the J O B and you see the good the bad and
the ugly from the report talk to your crew and make sure you learn from other's mistakes or misfortune.
We are all vulnerable on each and every call. We are not all Superman or Super Fireman.
That is the truth my brother. Our county council facing a budget crisis wanted to lay it at the feet
of public service. The IAFF, FOP, Teachers Union and Gov't employee's union massed a great
show. The IAFF president asked one question. Who here has gone down to DC to see the firefighters
burnt in the fire? None of the members had. The next meeting the firefighter who was burnt the
least and released first was at the meeting. The council had a change of heart. They needed a
face put on what we do every day. Our budget for personnel and wages wont be touched but
some of our academy and secondary EMS budget will take a hit.
I am getting off my soap box now. LIVE LEARN and TEACH. Watch your back and the backs of your crew
and at the end of the shift go home safe.
Be Safe My Brothers
There was a large number of failures that lead to the death of 9 of our brothers.
Incident command, water supply, tactics, breakdown of basic firefighter safety... we could sit here and critique it all day and night for a week.
Point of the matter is that 9 firefighters died when they didn't have to. Nearly all firefighter deaths on scene in my opinion are preventable to some degree. Either by having the proper training before going in to recognize certain hazards, or just knowing when to get out.
There is however times when things just happen.
The most important thing now is that we all learn from this. As a firefighter I have read this report and now some of the things that happened are now ingrained into my mind on how not to do things, or how to do things differently.
Sadly it takes a death to make needed changes, or to make us a community realize that we need to change. We aren't heroes, we aren't super men, we are just a team who has decided to take a risk and walk a thin line at times widened by our training.