Firefighters endure survival training remembering the Charleston 9

Firefighters endure survival training remembering the Charleston 9

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Firefighters from across the state are near the end of a grueling 5 day survival training where they are learning new skills.

The training is because of the tragedy of the Charleston 9, the firefighters who lost their lives in the sofa super store fire. Tuesday marks the 6 year anniversary.

Monday is the last day of the training and firefighters say it is the hardest day. Real life situations were created over the course of their training. The group is set to train for 24 hours straight until Tuesday morning.

"Right now I'm pretty tired, I'm pretty beat up," said Marc Hankins, Captain of the St. Johns Fire Department.

Carrying nearly 75 lbs. of gear, the group of 6 firefighters from across the state pushed their bodies and minds to the limit.

Hankins said, "We're only as good as our training and survivability is number one. I can't help the public if I'm going down in a fire.

Lead by the Charleston Fire Department, this is the 3rd year for the South Carolina Firefighter Survival Program. Students learn how to work together and communicate in stressful situations utilizing safety skills, like moving through a burning building.

Training instructor Les Baker said, "On the 5th day we do random skills throughout the day pretty much causing the person to expend all their energy and still have to continue on if it were a life and death situation."

A situation like on June 18th, 2007 where 9 firefighters lost their lives.

Hankins said, "The biggest thing is the survivability aspect and the ways for us to get out alive. Just the techniques and the drills that they taught us are going to mean a lot. I can't wait to get back to my department and teach my guys."

After being awake for 24 hours, Hankins will join the other students Tuesday morning at the Charleston 9 memorial for their final workout.

Baker said, "It continues to be emotional every year when we enter the Sofa Super Store site basically at sunrise on that 6th day the emotions seem to overwhelm you. There are tears of joy, tears of pain. There's just all kind of emotion running through because you have given everything that you had for the past 5 days. It's very overwhelming and it's very personally satisfying.

The group started their training with 8 firefighters and is now down to 6 because of the physical demands.

Tuesday night at 7:00 a solemn tribute is planned at the Savannah Highway site where the firemen lost their lives. Readings and prayers are planned. The Charleston Fire Department will be joined by firefighters from neighboring departments around the Lowcountry and the state to pay tribute.

Traffic in the area of Savannah Highway near Wappoo Road will be slowed.

The ceremony will be streamed Tuesday night at 7pm on and our smart phone apps.

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