Charleston ceremony to mark 16 years since fire killed 9 firefighters

Published: Jun. 18, 2023 at 3:42 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 18, 2023 at 10:56 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The nine city of Charleston firefighters killed in a 2007 furniture store fire in West Ashley will be remembered Sunday night.

An annual remembrance ceremony took place at 7 p.m. at the Charleston 9 Memorial Park on the site of the former Sofa Super Store, which burned to the ground on the night of June 18, 2007.

The names of the nine firefighters, who have come to be known as the Charleston 9, are read during the ceremony:

Family members of the nine victims attended, were given priority seating and walked in by past members of the fire department.

“Sometimes folks don’t remember that when that police officer or a firefighter goes out the door, there’s a whole family behind supporting them and what they do,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg says. “Here we are 16 years later, and time doesn’t heal all wounds; you still feel that loss.”

A firefighter statue watches over the Charleston 9 Memorial Park in West Ashley.
A firefighter statue watches over the Charleston 9 Memorial Park in West Ashley.(Live 5)

“Unfortunately to a lot of our new people, it is a story; but for us, it’s not a story,” Charleston Fire Assistant Chief David Griffin says. “It’s the way that we think about this, and it’s our to life really. We want to impart that on the next generation, so when we leave, they will carry that on.”

Members of the Lowcountry Firefighter Support Team and the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy were also on the site to offer support.

City firefighters began a 24-hour standing watch at the flagpole of the mark at midnight Sunday morning.

At the time this was the highest firefighter fatality in the U.S. since the September 11 attacks.

“No matter what’s happened in the past, and what no matter what we plan to happen in the future, we do it better today because of the sacrifice that was made here,” Charleston Fire Deputy Chief Forrest Cockcroft says.

“We made advances in the equipment, we made advances in our training, we’ve made advances in the size and scope of our department of what we do,” he adds. “All of that is aimed really to create a safer Charleston.”

Recent renovations have been underway to the memorial located at the site of the incident, and the memorial remained under construction during the ceremony.

“The site has a dual purpose to make sure we directly honor the nine but also that we can educate the community on what happened, specifically those in the fire service so they can learn from what happened here and have it not happened to them,” Charleston Fire Chief Daniel Curia says.

The department recently hired 42 new firefighters and leaders plan to instill the Charleston 9 story throughout their training.

“These nine men were chosen firefighters, they came through the ranks here; they were hired by the fire chief at the time, and they went through recruit school, they loved and lived this department,” Griffin says. “And now 16 years later, with them being gone, we still honor them and we teach our recruits about them.”