Charleston 9 Memorial honors firefighters lost twelve years ago

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Twelve years ago, nine firefighters lost their lives while battling a massive fire at a furniture store in West Ashley.

All nine of the firefighters were trapped inside the Sofa Super Store on Savannah Highway when the building collapsed.

On Tuesday, the Charleston Fire Department held a memorial for James Drayton, Michael French, Melvin Champaign, Louis Mulkey, Brad Baity, Billy Hutchinson, Mike Benke, Mark Kelsey, and Brandon Thompson.

The site where the furniture store was located was converted to a memorial park for the Charleston 9 in 2012.

The memorial service honored the lives that were lost, while family and friends visited the marker where each of the bodies were found.

At that time, that incident had the highest number of firefighter losses in a single event since the terror attacks of 9-11.

A bell rang for each of the firefighters at the service.

Many people came out even if they didn’t know the firefighters personally.

Cary Shealy says she comes every year.

“My heart just hurts for them and for the family,” said Shealy.

While the pain of the tragedy still lingers, the fire department says they’ve improved operations to make sure tragedies like this one don’t happen again. During these twelve years, the department has put in place new producers and have gotten new equipment.

“From the ground up, the fire department has been rebuilt, only the spirit of the Charleston firefighters remains unchanged,” Charleston Fire Chief Dan Curia said,

Charleston city firefighters began a 24-hour watch at the park’s flagpole which ends at midnight.

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