Charleston to discuss $320K in improvements to Charleston 9 Memorial
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The city of Charleston will be discussing spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make improvements to the Charleston 9 Memorial along Savannah Highway.
June 18, 2007, is a day firefighters in Charleston will never forget. That’s when nine of their colleagues were killed while fighting a fire at the former Sofa Super Store:
- Firefighter Brandon Thompson - Ladder 5
- Engineer Brad Baity - Engine 19
- Capt. Louis Mulkey - Engine 15
- Engineer Mark Kelsey - Ladder 5
- Capt. Mike Benke - Engine 16
- Capt. William Hutchinson - Engine 19
- Firefighter Melvin Champaign - Engine 16
- Asst. Engineer Michael French - Ladder 5
- Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton - Engine 19
Charleston Assistant Fire Chief David Griffin was on the scene that day and said the situation escalated within 30 minutes.
“The fire had started to grow faster than we had seen before, and before we knew it, we had people calling for help, calling maydays, and it was just a very quick, chaotic process,” he said.
Charleston City Council will soon consider a $320,000 project to add more pathways, landscaping, benches and a donor patio to the existing memorial.
“We reviewed many concepts. We heard from the families. We changed our drawings. We adjusted concepts, and what we have coming forward is the culmination of a lot of work,” Parks and Capital Projects Director Jason Kronsberg said.
Officials will also be adding small brick markers to show the corners of the building. They will also add story markers to tell the story of what happened.
Griffin said the site serves as an opportunity to educate the younger members of the department about what happened.
“At first, it was hard for me to come back here, but this is actually an area of strength for me,” Griffin said. “I come here whenever I’m feeling down or I come here when I need a pick-me-up because this reminds me personally of why I do what I do, but also, for the individuals that I work with, there’s 57 of us left of the 246 that were on the job on June 18.”
He added that the fire led to several changes in the department, such as bigger supply lines and changing how they fight blazes.
“We were good people with good intentions, and we operated a certain way, and then, on this day, we learned that there were better, more progressive ways to do that,” Griffin said.
City officials said they are confident the improvements will be done before the 16th anniversary of the fire, which is this summer.
“If you have come to Charleston in the last 16 years, we know this city has grown, and it’s very great to see so many people moving here, but I would ask that you come and you learn what happened at the site because if you are a resident of the City of Charleston, this is a part of your history, a part of your lineage,” Griffin said.
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