Charleston 9 remembered 13 years after deadly fire

VIDEO: Charleston 9 remembered 13 years after deadly fire

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The city of Charleston will pay tribute Thursday to the Charleston 9, nine firefighters who died battling a West Ashley furniture store fire.

The fire took place on the evening of June 18, 2007, at the former Sofa Super Store on Highway 17.

SPECIAL PROGRAM: Charleston 9: Never Forget

But an annual remembrance ceremony will take a different form this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That ceremony will still be held at the site of the fire, which is now the Charleston 9 Memorial Park. But because of the pandemic, the event will be closed to the public and limited only to the personnel conducting the ceremony and providing remarks, Charleston Fire Marshal Mike Julazadeh said.

Julazadeh said the Charleston 9 Remembrance Committee carefully monitored the pandemic and considered multiple options for the ceremony to “ensure we honored the sacrifices of our fallen while remaining mindful of the impact of the pandemic in our state and region.”

The fire department will work with family members to provide private periods during the day to visit the site.

Charleston Fire Department personnel will begin a watch at the memorial park’s flagpole starting at midnight on Thursday and continuing for 24 hours. Those on-site will maintain proper social distancing, Julazadeh said.

The Charleston 9: Firefighter Brandon Thompson, Engineer Brad Baity, Capt. Louis Mulkey, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Capt. Mike Benke, Capt. William Hutchinson, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Asst. Engineer Michael French, and Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton.
The Charleston 9: Firefighter Brandon Thompson, Engineer Brad Baity, Capt. Louis Mulkey, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Capt. Mike Benke, Capt. William Hutchinson, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Asst. Engineer Michael French, and Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton. (Source: Charleston Fire Department)

Every year on the anniversary of the loss, the fire department pays tribute to the nine firefighters who died battling the fire:

The Charleston 9 Memorial park, located at 1807 Savannah Highway in West Ashley, is the former site of the Sofa Super Store. The city of Charleston purchased the property in 2008 and continues to develop plans to improve the park. A pathway from the parking area leads to a flagpole and plaque at the center of the park where nine markers represent the location of each of the fallen when they died.

The new Charleston Fire Station 11 is being built next to the Charleston 9 Memorial Park in West Ashley.
The new Charleston Fire Station 11 is being built next to the Charleston 9 Memorial Park in West Ashley. (Source: Liollio Architecture)

The land adjacent to the park will become the home for Charleston Fire Department Station 11.

The station, which is currently under construction, will be connected to the memorial site when it is completed.

It has been designed to commemorate the Charleston 9 through the use of nine windows, one for each fallen hero, that will face out to the memorial site. Additionally, all of the fire trucks in the apparatus bay will be visible from the Memorial Park.

The new two-story, 14,000-square foot building will house the central training center, administrative spaces, sleeping and living quarters.

It will also be the new home for the historic bell from the old Meeting Street Station. The fire department says this is to remind of the significance of these heroic public servants. The bell tower will be at the main entrance of the new building.

This new station is expected to be open soon.

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