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Lessons Learned by ProQuest

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The fire at the Charleston Sofa Super Store, which caused the deaths of nine firefighters, is one of the most tragic single event outcomes in history for firefighters. The outcome was attributed to actions, inactions and conditions before and during the event itself. This article presents a review of existing investigative reports and highlights those items identified as critical to the overall outcome. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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									                                                                                                                                                                   Fire Prevention
                                                                                                                                                                      Fire Prevention



                                                                                                                        Lessons
                                                                                                                        Learned
                                                                                                                     A review of published investigation reports
                                                                                                                     from the Charleston Sofa Super Store fire
                                                                                                                                                              By Frank J. Baker




                           B                                                                    BUILDING OWNERS, OCCUPANTS and the fire
                                                                                                service play important roles in the outcome of
                                                                                                any fire emergency. The fire at the Charleston
                                                                                                Sofa Super Store is one of the most tragic single
                                                                                                event outcomes in history for firefighters. The
                                                                                                outcome was attributed to actions, inactions and
                                                                                                conditions before and during the event itself.
                                                                                                    This article presents a review of existing inves-
                                                                                                tigative reports and highlights those items identified
                                                                                                as critical to the overall outcome. Most of the avail-                                                              Photo 1 (top): Aerial view
                                                                                                able information was assembled by an independent                                                                    of the building before the
                                                                                                team of respected fire service professionals from                                                                   fire, facing south. Refuse
TOP PHOTO BY PICTOMETRY INTERNATIONAL; BOTTOM PHOTO BY BRAD NETTLES/CHARLESTON POST & COURIER




                                                                                                across the U.S. that was appointed by the city of                                                                   had accumulated near the
                                                                                                Charleston, SC. The team’s mission was to conduct                                                                   loading dock located
                                                                                                an exhaustive review of the incident and develop                                                                    between the front and rear
                                                                                                strategies for the city to implement to improve the                                                                 sections of the building.
                                                                                                fire department, as well as to benefit all fire depart-                                                             Photo 2: Aerial view after the
                                                                                                ments. The information also includes lessons that can                                                               fire. Note the extensive col-
                                                                                                be used by building owners and occupants to avoid                                                                   lapse of most of the struc-
                                                                                                similar situations.                                                                                                 ture. Roof coatings in the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    center section of the front
                                                                                                The Incident                                                                                                        showroom contributed to the
                                                                                                   At 7:09 p.m. on June 18, 2007, the first call reporting                                                          heavy fire load and were also
                                                                                                a fire behind the Sofa Super Store on Savannah                                                                      consumed in the fire.
                                                                                                Highway in Charleston, SC, was received by the 9-1-1
                                                                                                dispatch center. The first due battalion chief and crew       firefighters had become disoriented and could not
                                                                                                from the dispatched apparatus of Fire Station 11              find their way out of the building. Running out of
                                                                                                observed visible smoke as they left the station and           breathing air, they would eventually succumb to car-
                                                                                                arrived on the scene less than 3 minutes later.               bon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation, thermal
                                                                                                   The evening would end in tragedy. Nine fire-               burns or a combination in the untenable environ-
                                                                                                fighters would die in an incident that would later be         ment inside.
                                                                                                determined to have been entirely preventable—from
                                                                                                the fire itself to the loss of life. Preexisting conditions
                                                                                                inside the building and inadequately managed fire-            Frank J. Baker, CSP, CFPS, ALCM, is manager of risk management for the midwest
                                                                                                ground operations caused the conditions inside the          
								
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