Report released on fatal Charleston furniture store fire

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We routinely write about wildland fires here, but there are some lessons to be learned that would apply to wildland fire in the long awaited report on last June’s fire in Charleston, SC that claimed the lives of nine firefighters at the Sofa Super Store. It contains some startling information:

  • Fighting a well-established fire in a large furniture store with booster lines.
  • The fire department routinely did not use any large diameter hose. The largest hose on the pumpers was 2 1/2″.
  • There was inadequate water supply at the fire.
  • A lack of command and control at the fire scene.
  • A lack of accountability of firefighters at the fire scene.
  • The trapped firefighters’ mayday radio calls were not heard by anyone at the fire.
  • Improper ventilation at the fire may have contributed to the fatalities.
  • Truck companies in the fire department had ceased being used for ventilation on fires, perform rescues, or conduct salvage or overhaul. They had become “taxis”, transporting extra firefighters to fires.
  • “The Charleston Fire Department was inadequately staffed, inadequately trained, insufficiently equipped, and organizationally unprepared to conduct an operation of this complexity.”
  • “The fire chief became directly involved in supervising tactical operations in the vicinity of the loading dock and the warehouse during the critical phase of the incident. This should not be the role of the Incident Commander.”
  • The policy of the fire department was to not refill SCBA air tanks unless they were less than 2/3 full. This had the effect of the low pressure alarms going off after only 6-7 minutes of use.

On Wednesday, Fire Chief Rusty Thomas announced that he is retiring, effective June 27.

More information, including a photo, is at Firegeezer. has a lengthy story about the report.

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