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Fire union wants changes

The Post and Courier
Thursday, June 28, 2007

Chief Thomas says firefighting procedures are sound:

Roger L. Yow, president of the Charleston Firefighters Association, speaks during a news conference Wednesday. In back is Mike Parrotta, president of the S.C. Professional Firefighters Association.

Mic Smith

Roger L. Yow, president of the Charleston Firefighters Association, speaks during a news conference Wednesday. In back is Mike Parrotta, president of the S.C. Professional Firefighters Association.

The head of the local union that represents nearly half of Charleston's firefighters says the department's operating rules are inadequate and need to change.

Roger L. Yow, president of the Charleston Firefighters Association and a former captain with 25 years of service in the department, called on Chief Rusty Thomas to improve safety standards for the department's firefighters, which he said are at odds with nationally prescribed guidelines.

The union represented three of the nine firefighters killed in last week's furniture store blaze.

Thomas said in a separate interview with The Post and Courier on Wednesday that his department follows policies and procedures that have been honed over generations and suit the city well. "Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston Fire Department," he said.


Local members of the International Association of Fire Firefighters talk about last week's incident at a press conference

Local members of the International Association of Fire Firefighters talk about last week's incident at a press conference Watch »

Yow said he called a news conference Wednesday because he wants something positive to come from the firefighters' deaths. He said he does not fault the fallen firefighters because they were following the department's policies.

"I remained on the scene until all of our brothers were recovered," he said, "and I promised our members that I would not talk to any media until our last hero was laid to rest. I made another promise. That promise is, we will find a way to make some good come from their selfless sacrifice to our community."

Yow was joined by Michael A. Parrotta, president of the South Carolina Professional Firefighters Association, and Larry Osborne, a vice president with the International Association of Fire Fighters. In a later interview with The Post and Courier, Yow said he felt a sense of urgency to speak out as soon as it was appropriate because "the next big fire could happen tonight. These things should have been changed a long time ago. This is the time to start."

The union officials said the procedures in need of improvement deal with incident command structure, pre-planning for structures with known fire hazards and procedures for deciding when to fight a fire offensively or defensively.

Thomas has said that his department policy states that the highest ranking officer is automatically in charge of a fire scene and that the officer can engage in firefighting and rescue operations. But federal guidelines recommend that incident commanders remain outside of burning structures and that the passage of command be handed off formally so that the incoming commander can be briefed on overall conditions and the whereabouts of all firefighters.

Thomas said Wednesday that it's easy for outside critics to second-guess decisions. "But they weren't there, and I was," he said.

He said also that his firefighters know their jobs well and he trusts their experience. "We're safe, we've got the best equipment, we've got the best people and that's the way we fight fires," he said.

Osborne said that from what he has learned about what happened after the blaze started, "there are things on the fire ground that I wish had been done differently. ... It doesn't look like incident command was quite in place."

Osborne said whoever is in charge needs to "size up" the building, the fire and the various firefighting teams to coordinate how to conduct the operation. The on-scene commander needs section commanders relaying him information from the various parts of the fire operation, inside and out.

Parrotta said generally accepted firefighting rules say firefighters should never go into a building without first checking inside a dropped ceiling to see if a fire is burning, hidden in the ceiling. "You poke a tile" to look up inside before sending firefighters under ceilings with concealed areas, such as the steel truss support of the Sofa Super Store's showroom, he said. Such ceilings are notorious for concealing potentially dangerous fires until it's too late for firefighters to evacuate.

The state association will press for changes to state law, Parrotta said. He said South Carolina is one of the only states in the nation that does not require two firefighters on rescue standby for every two firefighters that enter a burning building.

The state requires only one firefighter for every two inside. He said the state also should require state-level certification for all firefighters. The state offers training at the state fire academy, but firefighters are not required to be certified.

He said the association also will lobby for a stricter sprinkler law. "The single largest thing that would have made a difference is sprinklers," Osborne said.

The building has a "very high fire load," he said. The Sofa Super Store has been remodeled so many times and so much combustible material, such as sofas and other furniture, has been stored in the building that sprinklers should have been required, he said.

The international association is the world's largest trade union of professional firefighters, representing more than 280,000 firefighters and emergency medical personnel. The union's state-level organization is the South Carolina Professional Firefighters Association, which represents about 735 firefighters around the state.

Firefighter Coverage

In our special section with photos, videos, interactives, donation information and every story written about the tragedy.

Three of the fallen firefighters, Engineer Brad Baity, Capt. Mike Benke and Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton, belonged to the local union, Yow said. He added that the more than 100 union members with the city department "support me 100 percent."

Parrotta, who spent 25 years fighting fires with departments in the Myrtle Beach area, first raised questions last week about whether the department followed proper firefighting procedure and incident command structure at the furniture store fire. He said life-saving policies are already in place at many departments. They just need to be implemented everywhere. "We don't need to reinvent the wheel," he said. "The wheel is already out there."

Yow said he expects the department's culture of aggressive fire fighting could make it difficult to institute new rules. "The Charleston Fire department has a long history of tradition and doesn't accept change well."

Glenn Smith contributed to this report.

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This article has  84 comment(s)

Posted by easy on June 28, 2007 at 7:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How more BLIND and closed minded can anyone person be. What does he mean, that no changes will be made in the the way the Charleston FD fights fire. They just lost 9 personnel, and he see's no need for change. Maybe then, someone above him ( the chief ) needs to make the changes, if the Chief is unwilling to do that, and the first change then needs to start at the top of the ladder. NO CHANGES WILL BE MADE. Way to many people just don't get it, CHIEF

Posted by Reader on June 28, 2007 at 8:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Is there any reason to think that the changes to Charleston Fire Department policy suggested by the union rep would have made any difference at the fire last week? How about waiting for the results of the State investigation before the opportunism?

Posted by meow on June 28, 2007 at 8:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow, loose 9 guys to a fire and that does not warrant a change in procedure? Time for this guy to hit the road.

Posted by KULBARSH on June 28, 2007 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

If "These things should have been changed a long time ago", the changes should have begun then. It is inexcusable to place blame when emotions on both sides are still raw. Placing blame is not conducive to making improvements and does not produce constuctive dialogue. Everyone needs time to begin healing.

Posted by kvnwells on June 28, 2007 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree 100% with the previous post regarding the Chief being blind to the fact that change is needed. Obviously with those types of comments from an organizational leader; the next change should be the Chief. That type of comment, I would feel as though someone slapped me in the face, if I lost a family member of friend in that fire. Those firemen did not just inadvertently walk into an empty building; they were instructed by a leader.

As Charleston's population continues to increase and larger structures are built, a strong leader should be required and demanded by community. Until the community wakes up and push for a change, incidents like this could possibly happen even on a larger scale; though we pray it will never happen. However, when you are the Chief and your brother (Battalion Chief) is one of the next in line for the top post- there's an internal problem. NEPOTISM CAN HARM AN ORGANIZATION. Just a thought... It seems very odd that the Chief thinks no procedural changes are needed. What if Chief Thomas is trying to protect his brother's decision???

Posted by srogers on June 28, 2007 at 9:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How many years have gone by with not one firefighter fatality? While very tragic and humbling, one incident in an extremely hazardous environment doesn't mean Charleston's firefighters procedures are in need of change.

Posted by Mythoughts on June 28, 2007 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Mission Control! "WE HAVE A PROBLEM"

I have been commenting on these matters in an article earlier (Blaze started in illegally built area), but a reader named Captain36 blasted me for saying some things about the City & Chief. I felt badly about it and retracted my commits about the article.

Maybe I was too quick to retract my comments!

Here the Chief says that he wants something good to come out of the fire, yet he says that what we (the city) has done in the past generations does need to be changed! Then you have the city codes department placed blame on Herb Goldstein for building the covered roof, now Chief Thomas is blaming the stores for the isles being crowed. Next the blame will be on the reporters for broadcasting the event!

All of this comes back to the City and how it handles is Departments! (Code Enforcement & Fire Department)

Posted by kydeb on June 28, 2007 at 10:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with srogers (see above), I don't think 1 incident, tragic as it is, necessary means that everything needs to change. Even with the best procedures in place, these guys have an extremely dangerous job. It's so easy to look back and say what could have been done, what should have been done. No one wanted a loss of life and I'm sure if a procedure change is needed, the Chief will make it. The loss of these men is personally tragic to him. I would caution people reading any article in the paper or seeing any story on tv to take what is said with a grain of salt. I've seen too many times when I've known what was said or read a press release that was sent out where one statement was taken from the whole. What is reported sometimes has very little resemblence to what is meant.

Posted by ccalder on June 28, 2007 at 10:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I was extremely disappointed to read Chief Thomas' reply in regard to changes within the CFD. Having worked indirectly with him in the past, I was very surprised at his declaration not to change if review proved it necessary. Any good leader understands that policies and procedures are in place within an organization for the well-being of all involved. However, over time, no matter how good the policies were initially, one must always review and update these policies as needed. In an incident like last week's fire where there was so much devastating loss, a true leader should at least be open to review and change realizing that such changes do not necessarily point the finger in any one direction. It is true that I am not a firefighter nor do I fully understand the depth and scope of their commitments and hard work. However, I do know that if I were in charge, I would welcome anything that would prevent another overwhelming disaster. Changes and learning are a very real aspect of life in any capacity, especially if we desire growth. I only hope that once Chief Thomas' head clears a bit following the recent events, he will be more open to whatever is necessary to make CFD the very best fire department possible.

Posted by Donna920 on June 28, 2007 at 10:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm sure Chief Thoms did his very best for his men, his job is not an easy one. With all due respect, I have to say that the National guidelines seem to be the best. I agree with KULBARSH " Placing blame is not conducive to making improvements and does not produce constuctive dialogue. Everyone needs time to begin healing."

There is always room for improvement&change. As new information is gathered we learn better ways. There's no shame in that. We don't fight fires the same way we did in 1900, because we learn and change. A procedural change is not an accusation but a chance to grow.

Posted by yeayea on June 28, 2007 at 10:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How dare all of you turn your back on a man that has served this commnunity so well. Chief Thomas has done nothing but hold this city together after what happened. Yes nine died, I happened to be very close with Cpt. Louis Mulkey, but you don't need to call for Chief Thomas' job. I think it's way too soon to ask him about procedure policies. I watched the news last night about this same thing and Chief declined comment. Just let him live the next couple weeks and improvement in procedures will come. Who knows where his head is right now, he lost 9 brothers.

Posted by bo2575 on June 28, 2007 at 10:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

My dad was with the City of Charleston Fire Dept for 30+ years. I chose not become a firefighter. I think Chief Thomas needs to swallow his pride and realize that there is a need for change when you lose 9 guys in a single story furniture store fire. Saying there is no need for change after the Sofa Super Store fire would be like the head of the FAA saying there was no need for change after 9/11. Wake up Chief!!

Posted by firejake on June 28, 2007 at 10:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

In this time of mourning it's so important not to forget the fallen or their families, and I pray for them everyday, but the fire service must move on and LEARN from this. Just like all the previous LODD's there will be something to be learned and this fire will be no different. I am afraid all those blasting people for their THOUGHTs will not want to hear some of the info released in the coming weeks. The ATF and NIST will have a lot of info for you to digest and most of it I am sure will be denied or not taken so well.

For the Chief to say no change will come of this is absurd. Things change over time and the fire service changes also and over time the ways of the old must succumb to better tactics and procedures. Let's not point fingers at the chief or anyone else for that matter (from the top to the bottom), there is no need. If mistakes were made and I am sure there were (there are mistakes made at every fire in this nation everyday, NO fire EVER goes exactly as we train or plan), they will be revealed for the fire service and those that made them to learn from. Also people need to realize the union is not pointing fingers or placing blame, they are just asking for change to protect our brothers.

Posted by huntress87 on June 28, 2007 at 11:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

ok, here I go and if it upsets those so be it. When our town hasn't lost 1 FF in about 15+ years, there must be something right going on. I agree that now would be the most oppertune time to go over the procedures and clarify a few things.. tweak some others.. Loosing 9 men in one fire is horrendous, but it would happen again, with no warning. Right now, we need to move through the reports from the ATF, the state investigation is complete. BACK off the Chief.. HE lost 9 men, and just finished with all of the Funerals. Right now, he believes everything is still right. ONCE all our men's emotions are back on an even keel, changes I am sure will be made. I have spoken to a few of the guys and right now they are in the same frame of mind that our Chief is. our procedures are in good order... AGAIN, I ask you to remember that it is way too soon for anyone to place blame.. emotions in the Fire house are hot and our MEN AND WOMEN are grieving.. give them time.. they are still looking at lockers, when just a few days ago they were burying their brothers.. Remember before you start voicing your thoughts, put yourself in their shoes, if you can't do that.. then ask those of us who are watching them day in and day out since last Monday night...

Posted by loster on June 28, 2007 at 11:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you yeayea! How dare people attack Chief Thomas when he's been so strong through all this. That man is suffering like none of us can ever begin to imagine. I believe he has said before that the captains make the decision to go in. We were not there, fighting fires is not our job. The men there, the men inside the building who lost their lives made what they felt was the right decision at the time. It is not our position to judge them. Yes it is very tragic, and we want to ensure it will not happen again, but placing blame on the Chief is not the way to go about it. For whatever reason, it was their time. Brandon Thompson wasn't even supposed to be at work that day. Some events, as tragic as they are, are out of control and in God's hands. For whatever reason, God needed those 9 men and we need to pray for their families...their blood family, their firefighter family and Chief Thomas who lost 9 sons.

Posted by lfd760 on June 28, 2007 at 11:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

First off, My thoughts and prayers are with the 9 fallen brothers!!! Second my prayers are with Chief Thomas and the rest of Charleston Firefighters!! To everyone else out there thats on the high horse of complaining about the fire and dragging the Chief through the mud over not making changes, I have to agree with srogers. As everyone knows in the firefighting business theres no guarantee that all will go smooth. Out of all the fires the city of Charleston has put out over the years and have not had a tragic accident like this, I feel the odds are going pretty good. I hate this happenend but we as firefighters know what the outcome can be. I think Chief Thomas is running a top notch ship, and feel that he knows what he is doing because during his time in office there has not been a fatality under him until now. To all the chiefs out there if you have a fatality in your department are you going to change policies and procedures, you may but is that the answer, maybe but maybe not. Its like the Pres. of the SC professional firefighters stated, don't try to invent the wheel cause its already there! How does all these people know Chief Thomas is not trying to make thinks better there, he just isnt going to make any sudden changes and I agree with his statement 110%. For those out there huntress87 could have not put it any better!!!!

Posted by chiefswife on June 28, 2007 at noon (Suggest removal)

Playing the blame game is not going to change what happened. The loss of 9 lives is a difficult tragedy to grasp, but one that should be learned from. There is a reason that there is supposed to be an incident command established and maintained during a fire scene. It is crucial for the safety of those risking their lives. There are also very good reasons for firefighters to be certified. No matter how good the firefighter is, there is always something to be learned, and possibly something that just may save a life and prevent something like this from happening.

This event will be critiqued by sums of people. It was a bad situation from the time the alarm sounded, and it quickly escalated. Yes, there were some bad decisions made. Chief Thomas is understandably grieving at this time, and that is to be expected. Nonetheless, as long as he is acting Chief of the department, he has a responsibility to his men. That includes admitting that improvements need to be made and standards need to be adhered to.

Posted by madness on June 28, 2007 at 12:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Since 1882 the men of the Charleston Fire Department have served this community without question. Through the next few weeks with the onslaught of Media scrutiny we would like to ask for the same dedication. Our tactics have saved countless lives and even more property over the last 130 years and for the next 130 years we will proudly serve doing what we do best.

Posted by Girleygirl on June 28, 2007 at 12:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am appalled that some of you guys want to oust the chief out. You all are hollering for change and the state report is not even finished yet. If there was problem with the codes before this fire happened I would hate to think that people are using this trajedy to talk about should've, could've, would've. I'm sure the chief is going to wait for the report before he listens to anyone else. Heck he just lost 9 brothers. I would not want to listen to anyone telling me I made a bad decision as well! Thats like telling him its all of his fault. I support the chief and I'm sure when the FINAL report comes out, he will talk about change but right now its too soon to do that. Dang it his first day back to work was yesterday give him a break!

Posted by ThePhink on June 28, 2007 at 1:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Policies need to be changed?
I am not a fireman but respect what they do to the fullest. First what policy would have prevented this? At this time from what little facts we have the only policy that I can think of would be "no firefighters are to enter a burning building". If we follow these kind of policies think of how many lives could be saved buy making a policy of no "police officers may enter a unknown dangerous situation". We could have saved a couple of lives already this year. These kind of policies are bogus and a disrespect to the people that perform these jobs.
When I hear something like this I ask myself this question and I think many of you should do the same. Who knows more about firefighting, me or the people that are trained to do it and spend their life doing it? I feel safe to say that every firefighter in the country know was more about fires than I will ever know and way more than many of you people that are here criticizing the chief. You do not chnage policy just for the sake of changing policy. When all of the facts are out (which they aren't) then and only then should a policy change and that policy should change only according to what was learned. As far as I know we haven't learned anything yet and probably won't for quite some time.
I have honestly grieved more in this past 9 days for so many men that I did not know as they were all heroes in every sense of the word. I have also grieved for Chief Rusty. You could see in his face and under his eyes how this has affected him. It is tearing him up worst than any of us could imagine and you people want to kick him when he is down? How many of you have had to go to the number of memorials, visitations and funerals as Chief Rusty in the past week. I have not attended that many in 20 years much less a week.
One last thing before I get off my box. Everyone of you who thinks things should change just for the sake of it will continue these thoughts until the one day you have to call because it is your house and your family that is inside then policies will not matter to you. Only saving your house and your family.

Since this tragedy I feel proud that I am a Charleston born South Caroliinian that lives in Summerville and this is all owed to every firefighter across this state that put their lives on the line everytime they go on duty. I will not let you haters change that and as Chief Rusty said I will also "NEVER FORGET".

Posted by Bnasty82 on June 28, 2007 at 1:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What most people need to realize is the Local Fireman's Union is not accusing anyone of wrong doing, but is pointing out that the City's Fire Chief should review his policies to ensure something of this nature does not happen again. Nine people are dead, common sense should prevail here as the investigation continues and Chief "Rusty" should avoid this arrogant attitude that is prevalent in the Riley Administration. Let's be honest, some more training is needed within this fire department.

Posted by CTFFE4 on June 28, 2007 at 1:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Firefighting is a dangerous business. If we are agressive, often the fire can be contained while it's still small. This makes it safer for all. The Union's stance is most likely correct in that the department has some outdated policies or procedures. The best way to overcome this, which they've been doing, is via training of the members in what still applies - the stuff that helps us all go home.

Sometimes bad things happen. These steel buildings come down quickly when exposed to fire. It was agood reminder to the country to return to and review our basics and look at our own communities.

I think we should all wait for the NIOSH report. Let the experts figure out what happened. Emotions are high right now, and the best we can do is support our brave CFD brothers as they continue to respond to alarms today.

Posted by markanello on June 28, 2007 at 1:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm a former firefighter and state trooper. A death(s) of
a comrade(s) is always a very horrifying and emotional event as we always put ourselves in their shoes, realizing that it could have been us, and that we are all sometimes at grave risk when performing our duties. I've been through it several times.

I hate to second guess anyone's judgement at a time in this tragic event when it was all happening so QUICKLY. We all know that we will always revert back to what we were trained to do when we are under duress, doing our best not to hurt anyone, even with the risk of our chosen profession.

I caution that we should all let the investigation take it's course, and I'm quite sure everyone will learn from it and change what needs to be changed, if change is necessary.

Clear heads will prevail when it all calms down and emotions are at bay.

God bless all the heroes that day...

Posted by ThePhink on June 28, 2007 at 1:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And what you and the firemans union need to realize is wait until the final report before demanding something. The firemans union said policies need to be changed. What policies? The investigation is not complete yet.
People are on here calling for the Chiefs job for not changing policies when we do not even know if ANYTHING would have made a difference. Some jobs are just plain more dangerous than others and this is one of them.
All I am saying is don't call for changes or the chiefs job until everything is complete. What is wrong with that? Until that point I will side with chief in any way possible and that includes defending him from people bashing him on here. There is nothing that can change NOW that we KNOW would have made a difference.
The firefighters know more about their job than the rest of us put together. Give them a little credit before you start calling for jobs and changes.

Posted by featherbrained on June 28, 2007 at 1:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I would have to agree with CTFFE4's comment above "to support our brave CFD brothers as they continue to respond to alarms today". We are all giving money to the firemans fund (thumbs up!), but what are we doing for the people, who in their own grief, continue to go to work and wait around on that offbeat chance that we need them? Take care of those that are taking care of you...and they ALL need our support right now!

God Bless ALL of our Emergency Responders!!!

Posted by firejake on June 28, 2007 at 1:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ThePhink you obviously do not know anything about this job and said you are not a "fireman" so maybe you should be the one to keep quiet. Brothers from around the country have seen the photos, the videos, and read the stories. They don't tell everything, but they tell A LOT of what happened that night and they pose a lot of questions that need answered. Its a tragedy, we all know that, and we all pray for the families and brothers of the fallen. The Chief is not being blasted on here for that night, he is being blasted for his comment of no changes will be made.

"Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston Fire Department,"

Thats what the uproar is about. The fire fighters have seen enough to call for these changes, how is that so hard to understand?

Posted by TruthRuth on June 28, 2007 at 2:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Rusty is a good Chief, but he needs to listen to these guys. It doesn't matter that no lives have been lost in so long. What matter is lives can be saved by changing a policy. Rusty doesn't like the IAFF since they pointed out that CFD firefighters were grossly underpaid, and teh CIty lost the suit. I hope his anger for the IAFF doesn't get in the way of what is right.

Posted by pointman on June 28, 2007 at 2:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I am a PROUD IAFF member. It is a tragedy that we lost nine of our brothers in this fire. With a tragedy such as this change NEEDS to happen. If we don’t make changes are we saying its okay for this loss of life? I don’t think so!! If the Charleston Fire Department is not open to change then President Yow is right. The changes need to be made starting at the top. We as the fire service need to make sure changes are made so this does not happen AGAIN! I applaud President Yow for making his statements. The frenzy he has created is what facilitates change. As far as placing blame on someone, YES it is going to happen!

Posted by firejake on June 28, 2007 at 2:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

well said pointman! Proud here also!

Posted by chiefswife on June 28, 2007 at 2:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with firejake. Those in the fire service have seen the videos and photographs. They do pose a lot of questions about the incident. No, the outcome of the fire is not going to change no matter what is done now, but changes need to be made to keep the same thing from happening again. Being the wife of a firefighter, I have been involved in the fire service for nearly 20 years. I want to know that my husband is as safe as possible in the life threatening conditions he encounters. This includes observing the recommended standards. You don't have to be an expert to view the videos and see that this was not the case. My first thought upon seeing the firemen venting the building while others were inside was, "Dear God, it is going to flash!" Don't criticize those of us wanting better for the firefighters. You would not let a surgeon operate on you simply by what he thought was good enough. You would want the assurance of knowing he knew what he was doing and that he would adhere to the highest standards. The "We have done it like this for 30 years" attitude just might result in another incident like this one!

Posted by Fyreman on June 28, 2007 at 3:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don’t need a report to know that things were not done right – Nine people are dead! Look at the raw video footage and it’s a miracle more people weren’t hurt or killed. I watched fire fighters with no safety gear climbing ladders through smoke; an overweight, middle-aged woman in shorts, a tank top and sandals manning a 2 ½” hose line in an IDLH environment (that’s Immediate Danger to Life and Health – a national standard term); opposing hose streams; apparent break down of command and control, etc. etc. This incident was not just a tragedy but a crime!

Professional fire fighters are PAID to learn their trade and keep up with accepted changes in techniques and policy. They have a responsibility to constantly stay abreast of current didactic modalities and skill trends and absolutely must enact continual changes to operating procedures that improve safety.

If a physician allowed nine patients to die because he refused to implement modern medicines and techniques but rather relied on a tradition of outdated and harmful practices he would lose his license and be condemned by the community – even if his excuse was that “it always worked before”. The firefighter is no less a professional (whether paid or not) than the physician and should be held accountable to similar standards. The consequences of failure are equally critical – namely, someone’s life!

I work among the largest and busiest fire departments in the country and we have lost too many brothers and sisters in the line of duty. In every incident that ends in tragedy, a specific chain of human events can be identified that led to disaster. If any one of the links of that chain were broken, a needless death or injury would have been averted. We have the responsibility to ourselves and our families to learn from those mistakes and insist on implementing changes that will avoid future catastrophes. Moreover, it is our duty to shoulder the burden of responsibility for those mistakes to honor those that have fallen and insure that no other families have to suffer the consequences of such an event.

A statement like "Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston Fire Department" is asinine. It should be prosecuted as such with resounding force by anyone wishing to pay tribute to the memory of those lost.

Posted by easy on June 28, 2007 at 3:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, if you cannot see that the CHIEF feels that there is not a need to make changes, then I can only suggest the following. To all that still remain at CFD, protect yourself anf your family, make sure you have a will, keep it up to date. Have an attorney that looks after your loved ones best intrest if anything unforeseen happens to you. The fact that anyone let alone the CHIEF of the dept. believes that no policy changes are required, makes a statement about their knowledge, training, experience and most of all concern for the safety and wellfare of all fire personnel in their command. If the Chief truely wanted to make a statement that would have made him look good, he would have said, my staff and myself along with a committee of dept. personnel will set down in the follwoing days to have a post incident analysis to see if we should consider the need to make any changes to our operational policies.
Who would have had any reason to get upset over a statement like that ?

Posted by gjordan on June 28, 2007 at 3:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the City of Charleston Fire Department have a Class 1 ISO Rating....I think that is pretty good (1 of only 55 {ruff count} fire departments in the United States. I think the Chief must be doing something right. It is an extremely tragic event and those that gave it all are true heros. It is a little humerous to me that some people love to play arm chair quaterback after the events happened. Let the investigation conclude then I am sure there will be some type of reaction. By the way check on what the Class 1 ISO rating means...., you may want to thank the fire department even more.

Posted by huntress87 on June 28, 2007 at 3:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

OK, here I begin again.. BACK OFF. Take a deep breath.. It has been 1 FULL day of work for our Chief Rusty. Quit reading more into what he said. Are you sure you heard the questions, did you not see the look he had on his FACE. He is in H.E.L.L. We just lost 9 guys.. I don't think you truly understand.. We appreciate your prayers, really we do.

All of these OUTSIDE FF, stay on the OUTSIDE. Pictures, Videos you have seen on TV, are only showing you a few spots. None of you were there, with the reliazation that, OS, there are still people on the inside.. Guess what.. that is what allowed my guys to run in.

There were civilians on the inside, we had to BUST out a back wall to get one out.. There was no time.. the building was standing, then it wasn't. UNLESS you were there, in the heat of it.. I might believe you have a right to speak out.

I have read all of it, how can you say that calling for change at this time is all you are doing. I get your angry.. SO am I.. I was there, I am there living it with the FF left to move on. I stated before, I will state this again, it is TOO soon to be calling for any action. YOU want to argue about a comment MY Chief made, fine. BUT do not call for a job none of you could do.

Some are right, every year, every day tweaks are being made to our policies. YOU don't know, you can't see it. I do, I have. Give us time to gather and work through it. OH yea, WE ARE STILL coming to work, knowing that there are tons of NEW BUSINESSES that have be converted from OLD Ones. with the knowledge 9 are no longer here. OUR men and womean had their FIRST day BACK YESTERDAY.

this blaze and it being a Sofa store, which is a magnet for fire.. There was no time for any thoughts. Just actions. Determination, of responsibility will fall to all shoulders. BELIEVE me, each one of the FF who were at that BLAZE are feeling they didn't do enough. Guys off duty came running to man the hoses as it was pointed out.. (shorts and flops) run ladders, do what ever needed to be done.

Have your thoughts, speak your mind.. BEFORE you blast something, wait for the facts.. (For those who say they saw enough video heard the 911 calls etc you know nothing but a partial to a picture that hasn't even begun to be seen)

Posted by Nosynora on June 28, 2007 at 4:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let the healing begin! After all the facts are in and recoverv has begun is plenty of time to analyze and determine if and what changes need to be made. Life needs to be in a constant state of change but no changes should be made without adequate reflection and determination of the efficacy of this change.

Over the years fire fighting has changed. I saw pictures of my grandfather standing by a horse drawn, man operated water pump. How inefficient that was. My cousin died in a traffic accident while responding to a false alarm. Now the men ride inside the vehicles not hanging onto the rear. Changes will be made in the fire departments throughout the world but more importantly, the changes need to be made in the construction of these large commercial structures to prevent the tragedy which cost those nine lives. I personally hate going into the modern department stores or grocery stores knowing that the way out is through the front entrance or the loading dock and the aisles are narrow and cluttered. Let the changes be in the buildings first.

Posted by unknown on June 28, 2007 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Has anyone thought about sitting back, waiting for the facts, respecting the CFD for what they do well? Other FF's on here are apparently the biggest hypocrits ive ever seen. every single one of us works for a fire department that has issues that need to be addressed...and how many of those FD's are addressing those issues as we speak? none of them...they either dont know they are there because nothing has happened or they are waiting on the facts from the recent tragedy of 9 lodds. guess is CFD. AND THEY ARE THE ONES EFFECTED THE MOST!

Furthermore, has anyone ever thought about the Chief's comment in a different light?
"Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston Fire Department"

HE SAID "TECHNIQUES"! NOT "POLICIES"! There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG with being aggressive, which is what he is talking about. It is an effective TECHNIQUE, that prevents a lot of life and property loss. The TECHNIQUW that he is "not changing" is one that has proven to be effective in suppressing fires.

I don't know where you all heard he is not going to change policy...GIVE THEM TIME.

Quit bashing them. RESPECT, HONOR, SUPPORT, WORK TOGETHER. I thought we were all BROTHERS?

God Bless the Brave 9, Chief Thomas, huntress87, and the rest of the CFD!

Posted by Mythoughts on June 28, 2007 at 4:13 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Remember that all of these outside firefighters are professionals also, and they don't fear reprisals from the Chief. His time as Chief is coming to an end, then you know what will happen.

The new Chief will make changes and we will prevent this from happing again.

Posted by hebebrandverner on June 28, 2007 at 4:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Interesting, how so many of Charleston's citizens have become suddenly experts on this tragic event and the handling of it by Chief Thomas. Shame on you!

Posted by ThePhink on June 28, 2007 at 5:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Fyreman I do not have to be one to have an opinion and offer sadness and support. That is asanine on your part as well. Just tell me what justifies getting rid of a chief before anything has been learned? I have seen as much video as yourself if not more. So that qualifies me as an expert as much as you. Or at least an outside consultant.

Posted by buzz457 on June 28, 2007 at 5:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If the FD operates like the PD did under Chief Greenberg then it is time for a change in leadership. People become stale and new ideas/methods need to be introduced and adopted. The average tenure for a Police Chief is 3 years so Greenberg was a cat of nine lives as apparently is Chief Thomas.

Posted by VCFIRE on June 28, 2007 at 5:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Having worked in the fire service for the last 28 years the last 11 as Fire Chief I would recommend that everone wait for the investigations to come to some closure. I know that we can sometimes be too close to the issue and we need to get some help in stepping back and looking at the issue from a new perspective.

I would encourage the community to continue to assist the Charleston Fire Department and keep them in your prayers.

With the great collaborative work accomplished by the International Fire Chiefs (IAFC)and Fire Fighters (IAFF) Associations in recent years I'm sure valuable assistance can be provided to Chief Thomas and the labor group as they move forward from today. In the meantime know that our prayers are with the families of these brave firefighters and the City of Charleston.

Posted by huntress87 on June 28, 2007 at 5:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

mythoughts, this is a message board, where grown-ups should be able to discuss an issue, and it is done with out anyone knowing who you are.. if you fear retribution from this, then I am sorry. BUT to call for one's job when the comment this is about was WRITTEN wrong, is childish.

"Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston Fire Department" - no where does it state Policies.. Changes are around the bend, but can you actually GIVE my guys and gals a moment's peace. Let them, deal with us, and yes some of us have yet to pick up some of our men's belongings. WE will get there..

Just remember to be patient and keep my family and the other 8 in your prayers.. along with our BROTHER and SISTERs in the CCFD. Changes will come, just DO not ask for the head of my chief on a silver platter, before the facts are in..

I will admit, somethings make us go HMM, yet we are waiting, for everything.. ALL angles have been looked into, all corners brought out. Why can you not?

Thank you for the prayers and the love, we appreciate it more then you will ever know. Life is not easy and right now our grief is very real.. I know that reading every article does not help, yet in between all of the horrible things said, about calling for a man's job and a change in this or that.. there are those who are trying to be sincere for us...

Posted by firechief on June 28, 2007 at 6:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

There are a lot of "experts" - both firefighters and non-firefighters weighing in on this tragedy. As a fire chief in a similar sized department, let me share my observations:

1. NOBODY has all the answers as to "what happened and why". Even after a thourough investigation from NIOSH and others there will still be unanswered questions.

2. NIOSH will find the following causes in their investigation:
A. Lack of adequate incident command
B. Inadequate risk assessment
C. Lack of firefighter accountability
D. Inadequate communications
E. Lack of standard operating procedures
How can I make this bold prediction? Easy. These are the top five causes of firefighter fatalities nationally. (See the NIOSH website and look for yourself) They are the issues we, in the American fire service, struggle to address everyday. In fact, I just gave a lecture to 300 firefighters on these very topics the week before the tragedy.

The true outrage is the city's and specifically the fire chief's attitude toward national standards. ARROGANCE KILLS. The reality is that national standards from the NFPA and others are developed with input from thousands of fire departments representing millions of firefighters. They represent the "best practices" to mitigate risk in a risky occupation.

The chief's quote "Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston Fire Department" and his quote from a previous article, "I'm just going to let you know we have our own incident command system. We have it written that the highest-ranking official is automatically in charge. I don't care how it is anyplace else." is telling.

Chief Thomas must go! Anyone else in the Charleston Fire Department with the same attitude of arrogance must go too!

To willingly and intentionally ignore national standards is inexcusable. To lose nine firefighters because of it and then publicly state that you don't care how it is anyplace else is criminal.

May God bless the men and women of the Charleston Fire Department - ALL OF THEM.

Posted by CaptainsMom on June 28, 2007 at 6:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

My heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to the surviving family members and all firefighters. I am not an expert on fires,policy,techniques or safety....but I do have a son who is and I trust what his take was on that horrific evening (which he was on duty with his men at the fire that evening) he strongly beleives that the Chief made some very grave mistakes. He is sad and angry that the Chiefs' mindset is (in my words) the high school bully! I will never forget the words my son said the day after the fire..."Mom, you risk alot to save alot(lives) you risk little to save little (sofas) it is with deep sadness in my heart that I ask for the Chief TO RESIGN. You may be critical of my posting but I know many wives,children,and parents of these heroic men who lost their lives for a building full of sofas must have the same thought... WHY Chief did you risk so many to save a building full of sofas?

Posted by charleytowngirl on June 28, 2007 at 6:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just like Chief Thomas said a day after this tragedy, (I'm paraphrasing...not a direct quote) We will stand tall. The Charleston Fire Dept has always stood tall and we will stand tall now.

Stand tall, Chief, just like you said. There will be plenty of time for review once all the reports are complete and I have complete faith that you will make any necessary changes. You have served this city well for a long time.

In the meantime, the prayers of thousands of people are with the 9 men, their families and the entire fire department that lost so much last week.

Please, readers, give these families and this fire department a little time to greive and start the healing process. Good decisions will be made when everyone has a clear mind. Right now is not the time to debate over investigations that aren't even finished!

Posted by kydeb on June 28, 2007 at 7:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I've read through these comments. It's amazing how many know-it-alls crawl out of the woodwork. It is not right to second guess what the professionals did. They probably did everything right and, sometimes, even if you do everything right, there are still tragic consequences. The Fire Union needs to back off. The Chief did his job and hopefully will continue to do so. The deaths of his men has torn his world apart - now, on top of his grief, he has to deal with people's second guessing. Everyone can look back and say "I would have" "He should have" but again, unless you're there, in the action, you do not know what you would do. Stop second guessing the actions of the fire department . . . it's tragic, families were torn apart. If changes are needed, I'm sure they will be made. Give all of the fire fighters time to grieve. Get off the Chief's back!!

Posted by rjahopp on June 28, 2007 at 8:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Chief Thomas, Asst. Chief Garvin, and the CFD are traumatized by this tragedy. Everyones thoughts and prayers are with them and the deceased.

Thomas, Garvin and CFD personnel should not be giving interviews / posting internet comments re the Sofa Super Store; pending publication of the investigation results, all inquiries should be referred to the Mayor's Office / Charleston City Attorney's.

In a video taped interview with Thomas the day after the fire (which seems to have disappeared from the internet) he said the 1 thing he seems certain of: "I have no idea what happened."

My grandfather was a Charleston City Council Alderman on the Board of Fire Masters - he would not ignore constructive critisism or consider procedural changes that might save CFD lives.

From what has been learned since the fire, it will be surprising if the investigation does not scream "flashover!"

CFD Capt. Harrison has said the nine firefighters might have died in a flashover. Thomas mentioned flashover at the scene of the fire. In that event, the firemen would have had only a matter of seconds to escape the inferno alive (temperatures rapidly could have reached 600 - 1000 degrees C).

Note: has posted a photo of the firemen at the Sofa Super Store on their web site re flashover. (their comment: "If a firefighter dies through some form of extreme fire behavior in your jurisdiction .... it's 90% certain there is a 'lack of awareness' - a training issue involved.")

(Flashover is where a piece of furniture is set on fire in a room (e.g fire fell from the ceiling). The fire on the furniture produces a layer of hot smoke across the ceiling. Radiated heat from this layer causes pyrolysis (heating of the other surfaces in the room - walls, furniture, etc.) and they give off flammable gases); smoke banks down quickly, reducing visibility dramatically. The gases can ignite and in a few secs. every surface in the room may be on fire.

Warning signs: 1)heat mixed with smoke and (2) "rollover" - sporadic flashes of flame mixed with smoke at ceiling level.

There is a "procedural" question of how a "flashover" situation was not recognized by the CFD. CFD determined that no one was in the main store and witnessed black smoke and small flames wafting from the ceiling. Why weren't the firemen ordered to evacuate? Why was a 2nd tam ordered into the building to fight the deck fire from inside?.

Professionals have said that, since no civilians were in the main store, the fire should have been fought from outside (surround and drown). 9 more firemen should be here today.

Action is required. Parrotta is right: "the next big fire could happen tonight."

The best people with the best equipment in the absence of the best procedures proved fatal for the CFD.

With respect to the memories of the fallen 9 and to protect other fire personnel, CFD must listen to the CFA - they make sense.

Posted by vjohnson on June 28, 2007 at 9:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The change that needs to happen is that Chief Rusty needs to resign, and if the Mayor does not want to bring in a pro-active safety conscious Fire Chief that will make changes that will keep the members of the Charleston Fire Department safer then he needs to go also. To make a statement that "Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston” after killing 9 brave fire fighters is barbaric. This “Leader” needs to either bring change or leave all together, he wants to stand at the podium and say he is a leader then be a leader.

Posted by Mythoughts on June 28, 2007 at 9:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

huntress87 maybe it's a good think that I'm not grown-up, I can say how I realy feel about what happens.

Their must be a lot of childish people on the comment line!

Posted by nickiegarbeil on June 28, 2007 at 11:04 p.m. (Suggest removal)

First, my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the fallen firefighters. May the memory of these brave men, bring peace to the hearts of their families.

Second, I am saddened at how eager people are to jump on Chief Thomas, but not surprised in the slightest. It goes to show how humanity works...we must blame in the face of pain. WRONG.

I am however, interested to know why the STATE doesn't find the need to inspect each department's policy enforcement? Where was the Union BEFORE this accident? You come to "the rescue" of men after they are gone? THAT is what makes no sense.

There is no secret in the fact that the firefighters union is weak in SC, and now they are looking for a scapegoat. Face it Unioneers, if the policies are wrong, YOU, the UNION, failed these men. If the policies and procedures were not being followed in the proper manner, then YOU should have discussed these things BEFORE a tragedy occurred. Shame on you, and shame on the fact that Chief Thomas has been made to defend himself. Nothing like hanging a brother out to dry.

For those of you criticizing Chief Thomas, DUH? Do you not see what is going on here? Critics are setting this man up for the lawsuit of the century, and what's more of a shame, is that those nine families are watching and reading this, and suffering more and more each day wondering what the truth is, and why their loved one is dead.

It is SO easy for you all to criticize, but not one of you is willing to pick up a nozzle to experience what it is like on the scene. And you can do it better?? NO FIRE is ever textbook perfect. You want to blame someone? Wait and see if the fire started by a cigarette, and if so, THAT is who is to blame for this fire, not Rusty.

Do changes need to be made? Maybe so, but to ask Rusty to say yes, definitively, BEFORE the facts come back, is asking him to sign the check in a wrongful death suit. He doesn't know the facts right now anymore than any of us do, so to expect him to make statements to that effect, is ludicrous.

These men worked hard at their jobs, and loved being in the thick of the fires, adrenaline pumping. To diminish their belief in their jobs, their training and their beloved Chief is spitting in their faces.

I am sure that with close examination and facts coming from State and Federal examinators, we will see that some things probably do need to be improved upon, there is ALWAYS room for improvement, BUT that, in no way points to anyone being responsible for the deaths of these 9 wonderful men. No one can say changes would have saved lives for certain.

Now, let these families grieve in peace while they await the FACTS.


Posted by Rob on June 29, 2007 at 12:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Bottom Line. The Fire Department Policies and Procedures need to be reviewed by an objective panel of Firefighting experts and policy makers. WE LOST 9 GOOD MEN AND WE DON'T NEED TO LOOSE ANY MORE. These type of steel truss fires are fought in other jurisdictions without loosing 9 good men. Chief Rusty Thomas is proving right now he is not a good administrator by refusing to have the Fire Department's policies and procedures reviewed. It is time for Mayor Joe Riley to direct the Chief to submit for review the policies and procedures or remove Chief Thomas from his position. If Mayor Joe doesn't, then Joe needs to be removed at the next election next year.

With this attitude Firefighter families who suffered a loss of a loved one should be getting attorneys and sue the City for GROSS NEGLIGENCE for sending their family members to their deaths by incompetent Fire Department administrators and outdated Department Policies and Procedures. Bottom Line it could save future Firefighter lives in the City of Charleston.

Mount Pleasant

Posted by policewife on June 29, 2007 at 12:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I cannot believe that people are calling for Rusty's job. All the facts are not in and people are trying to place blame. This is sad. Rusty and the city of Charleston firefighters are just now getting back to work. Allow them to get past this. We all must make an effort to support all of the city of charleston firefighters at this time. I am sure that Rusty has gone over and over that night and if he felt something could have been done different then it would have. He has refrained from making any comments about that night. I am sure that after 911 policies were looked at and changes were made. We will do the same. I can't remember a fire of this proportion ever. I think when Rusty made the comment about no one did anything wrong and the firefighters all knew their job and did their job that he is trying to show support to his people. Don't you think that every person who was there at that fire has gone over and over his or her part and thought what if??? I also was concerned when I saw people fighting the fire without the proper safety equiptment on. But I asked my husband, a city of Charleston police officer, If a police officer or officers lives were in danger and you were in the area would he ride on by?? Or would he stop and do something?? He said, yes, he would stop and go without his bullet proof vest on. Because his mind set would be that his life was not in danger but his fellow officers are and he may be the one who could make a difference. I think that, although dangerous at the time of the fire, the off duty personell had that same mindset. I feel that after all this has had time to settle and people stop using the media as a soap box everyone will be able to sit and talk this thru as concerned adults. I think Rusty is trying to help his people get back to a routine. And the news media dogged him and other officials relentlessly. I resent the airing of Rusty's raw grief the next day. Shame on the media. I think that in time All fire officials will look at this fire and not play the blame game but will work out a better way to handle a fire of this proportion the next time. I think that making a park is a start of healing for the firefighters. And to call for Rusty's job?? Come on. Unless you have walked a mile in his shoes then just keep quiet. It is always easier when you aren't in the hot seat. If you want to help then go by the firehouse and show support there.

Posted by charlestonroots on June 29, 2007 at 7:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I’ve worked at the same furniture store for the past 10 years. I see customers loose their sense of direction all the time; furniture stores have a way of doing that to people. I can understand how easily the firemen found it impossible to find their way out. Personally, I don't feel they should have gone in. But who am I to say what they should or should not do? On the other hand, if someone I loved were in that building, I would be begging the firemen to go in. From what I understood from early reports, the firemen thought there were still 2 people in the building. So what if there were 2 people still in that building? And what if the firefighters had not gone in? The ones that have posted here for the chief to resign would still be posting for him to resign. The chief has my full support.

The last fireman was buried at the beginning of the week and I had the privilege of seeing some of the funeral procession as it went down Folly Road. The following day at work I was telling someone about how I was able to see some of the funeral procession for the last firefighter. A new employee who recently moved here from the west coast says “they could have timed that better”, he was referring to the fireman’s funeral. I just looked at him and said you are kidding, right? His response, no I had to sit in that traffic. The week before he was talking about how tragic it all is and how the chiefs head will roll, but then his true selfish colors came shining through. He was inconvenienced by the fireman’s funeral. This man showed total disrespect yet voices his concern about the firefighter losing their lives. I’m sure the family would have timed it differently if they had a choice, like 40 or 50 years from now. Like my coworker so many of the posters have voiced their concern for the men who lost their lives and at the same time are disrespecting them by putting blame on their chief. The important thing to do now is to support the Chief and all the firefighters. What if the cause of the fire, as another poster stated, is because someone carelessly disposed of a cigarette butt? All of these know-it-alls are judging Chief Thomas on one statement. Why not judge him on his career? Do you really think he could be the chief this long and not have lost any men if he didn’t make their safety a priority? I have no doubt that Chief Rusty will be serving us for many more years and he will always have his firefighter’s safety as number one in his department.

I did not know any of the heroes that were lost that day but I can’t help but feel they would be very disappointed by reading a lot of these posts. My heart goes out to the families of each fireman that lost his life.

Posted by j23 on June 29, 2007 at 9:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am in full support of The Charleston Fire Department and all of its firefighters, including the Chief. I have been a full-time firefighter for 15 years and have worked in several areas, including firefighter, engineer,Lieuenant (shift supervisor) fire marshal,and now as a training officer. It seems that everyone is quick to place blame on certain individuals for the events that took place on that day. Chief Rusty says that their "techniques" will not change. There is a big difference in techniques and policies. The CFD is not the only aggressive fire department around. I view my own department as aggressive also. Firefighters are taught to enter buildings and attack fires from the unburned side. Firefighters make entry into burning buildings everyday in the US in an effort to extinguish fires and save lives. I respect everyone's opinion but you, like myself were not there. The CFD has a long and honored history and has provided many years of faithful service. We need to honor these firefighters and pray for them instead of placing blame, especially on one person. There were many factors that may have contributed to this event. Also, keep in mind that these firefighters were not rookies. Take a look at their level of experience (over 130 years to the CFD)!!

I also challenge all the other firefighters bashing the CFD to take a look at your own policies. Do we need to learn from this event? Yes, we do. Are we going to stop entering buildings to extinguish fires and rescue people, I think not! The CFD's emotions are raw let them start the healing process. I am also disappointed in the union for so quickly stepping in to place blame before all the facts or investigations are complete. After the investigation and report are complete, if changes are necessary then I think that they should be made. But firefighting techniques, including interior firefighting will remain the same, we will enter buildings every day to extinguish fires and save lives.

In closing, to the CFD "STAND TALL", you will be in my prayers, and we will never forget "THE CHARLESTON NINE"

Posted by west41 on June 29, 2007 at 11:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

This was a very tragic thing that happened and we all wish that it had not,but the fact remaines that it did. We all want to know why and to place blame, that is human nature and that will never change. I will agree that the policies need to be looked at (after all the facts are in), but the CFD is not the only dept. the needs to look at it's policies. The city and county planning and building commisions need to look at thiers also. Do thier policies insure the safest possible envionment for the employees, public and fire fighters that may have to come in to save a life in the event that the building does burst into flames, as this building did. Or are thiers polices layed out so that they can collect the most tax dollars for city and or county without regard to what could happen. To allow this much flamable stuff under one roof and not require a sprinkler system to me just shows a total disreguard for the employees, public and for the CFD.

Posted by easy on June 29, 2007 at 1 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The CHIEF just said once again, if they had to fight the fire again tonight, they would do it the same way they did the night they lost 9 people. Is the CHIEF still in shock ?
Does he not know what he is saying ? The way I see it, he is saying he would lose the 9 personnel all over again, even knowing what he knows now, about the outcome of his dept's tactics. Does he not see that what happened was not the way to remain in his attitude when it comes to what is important when it was shown how the tactics that were used did not work. And I still cannot understand why there were 15 firefighters inside that building when the evacuation order was given. Thank God that the other 6 made it out.
It seems that these 6 have been over looked as being a possible part of the total loss.

Posted by steamin441 on June 29, 2007 at 4:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I woke a week ago Tuesday to the report of two dead Firemen and several missing. That was of course just the start of information here in the upstate. When I soon found out there were nine men dead I instinctively thought something is wrong here. Sofa warehouse= heavy fuel load.Steel trussed roof= imminent collapse. Incident Command? Several stations responding= iffy span of control. Size of structure= spread out attack and S&R. Explosion with hot ash extending so far bystanders are effected= textbook flashover on an enormous scale. This was basic commercial structure firefighting yet with all the years of experience represented these guys ended up at that fine line and lost. God bless them.
Unless proven otherwise I believe the nine men that perished actually died because of flashover. That they were actively suppressing the fire and did not realize they were at total combustion until it was too late.
Chief was premature in saying no changes. He would have done better by everyone simply saying "we are reviewing the incident" By his defiant statement he only unleashed the hounds. He is the Chief but there were so many seemingly obvious tactical misses,(by my training and experience) and such a huge loss of life he would have to be compelled to stand down on SOP/SOG until all these questions are answered.

Posted by firefighter on June 29, 2007 at 7:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I have been a firefighter for 18 years, I have been to many scenes that have been reported on by the news. Not once has the news reported things as they happened, not even close. Save your judgements until FACTS are known, and not the things the news claims are facts.

Posted by burton on June 29, 2007 at 8:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I think we should all wait until we get the investigation reports from the state and ATF. However, I do believe that the Chief was premature in the comments that he made. If the reports show that changes need to be made and the Chief still refuses to make those changes, then it may be time for a new leader because not making those recommended changes will be a slap in the face of the nine brave firefighters that died and the men and women in the CFD.

Posted by huntress87 on June 30, 2007 at 1:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Thank you for the prayers, I have said that before and we of lost 9, know there were several injured FF, who were taken to area hospitals, and are dealing with the fact they are dealing with their own flash of life before their eyes. We are grateful that MORE men were not lost.. Believe me we don't wish this on anyone.

If we are not asking for his head on a silver platter, then why are so many, calling for change RIGHT this minute. We will never know ever detail of what went down, the reports that come through, will not have the words we want to hear nor see on them.

IT happened quickly.. reported one minute it was up.. one minute it was gone..

I have ONLY asked that no-one ask for anyones job, until all facts are in... I also believe that it has said numerous times, TV and video, and comments made by news media.. have not shown the whole story.

I believe that it has been a week and 5 days now since the men were lost.. Please just keep those still fighting with memories of that night, us the 9 and others.. pray for us, for our CCFD and what ever changes that come will come in due time, and course. NOT before it has to and not on anyones personal time frame. Life doesn't work like that. from one who lost a brother..BELIEVE ME

Posted by proudff on June 30, 2007 at 9:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Subject: Charleston Memorial Service (Par1)

We are already hearing from our Leadership as well as many of our disappointed Brothers and Sisters from across the continent that the memorial service for the nine Charleston fire fighters, who died in the line of duty Monday evening, doesn't seem to be very organized and up to the IAFFs normal standards for funerals and memorials.

The reason for this is simple. The IAFF is not in charge of this service. Let me be very clear and frank about the situation in Charleston. This is an openly anti-union city that is hostile towards the IAFF. The Chief and Mayor are not, as an understatement, labor friendly and believe they can do everything themselves. The Chief refused all assistance from the IAFC, and even refused assistance of the state USAR team.

The Chief and the Mayor have resisted any of our planning ideas and have refused all IAFF offers of assistance. They appointed the president of the state volunteers association, Jim Bowie, to run the entire memorial program. Bowie does not like the IAFF, our state association or its president Mike Parrotta, because Mike has fought to improve standards in the state. In fact, Bowie has been lobbying for lower (more volunteer friendly) standards. Bowie led the charge against the 2 in 2 out standard helping to establish the 2-in-1-out rule that prevails in South Carolina (the only state in the nation that doesn't follow OSHA standards of 2-in-2-out), and Bowie lobbied to make sure many buildings in the state were not required to be retrofitted for sprinklers.

Bowie is also the leader of the South Carolina first responders for Giuliani campaign and has attempted to make this memorial a platform for Rudy. We are fighting to keep this from becoming another political platform.

Regardless, we have our 12th District Vice President Larry Osborne, Mike Parrotta, and senior staff Jeff Zack, Rich Duffy and Pat Morrison on the ground and weighing in where they can. They are spending their time assisting Local 61 and our fallen families, but they are running into a brick wall on all decisions related to the memorial. Because of the situation, we also have limited access to the VIP area. Only principal officers, district vice presidents, and the South Carolina state leadership will have official access.

Bowie is making ALL of the decisions regarding this memorial. He has only allowed us to attend meetings where they are simply announcing the decisions that have been made. And he has summarily rejected any and all advice we have provided at every turn -- including that trying to do this memorial on Friday is way too soon.

Posted by proudff on June 30, 2007 at 9:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Subject: Charleston Memorial Service (Part2)

We were informed that the FDNY Pipe and Drums had been invited by the Charleston Fire Department to play in the ceremony and that no other pipe bands would be allowed to play. If we had been involved, we would have coordinated the participation of other pipe bands. We were not party to or involved in this decision.

I will be forwarding this email to the IAFF state and provincial presidents and our major affiliate leadership so that they are aware of the situation and will ask them, if their state or provincial has a pipe and drum corp or honor guard, to please contact these organizations to let them know that the IAFF had no control over the planning of this event.

This memo is meant to be very direct. I don't want us to pull any punches with our leadership or members on this unfortunate situation. When you hear a complaint from an affiliate, member, honor guard, pipe or drummer about this memorial, make sure to inform them that the IAFF has not been permitted to plan or to make any of the decisions regarding this event.

Harold A. Schaitberger
General President
International Association of Fire Fighters
1750 New York Ave. N.W.
Washington D.C. 20006

Posted by bootlicked on June 30, 2007 at 9:26 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Rusty needs to go!!!! His fire tactics are deadly,his turnover rates are unbelievable, and he thinks that this is a tradition. Rusty's dad gave him his first promotion after he was failed by Dewwit. I guess that is why one of the first things he did was make his brother a chief. Is your Dad still a consultant with the dept.? Why were there so many people without their protective clothing? How did chief o.d. have burns? Did he not have gloves? Your time is over!!!!! God bless our firefighters. Oh yeah where was daddy during this time of need?

Posted by Mythoughts on June 30, 2007 at 12:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'm glade to know that the local leaders of the CFD are so smart. We don't need to rely on the rest of the countrys firemens knowlege in fire fighting.

It realy looks like a pissing contest between CFD and IAFF,
I hope this was not the root cause of this incident.

Posted by firejake on June 30, 2007 at 1:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The IAFF has nothing to do with the root cause of the tragic event. Thats a dumb comment.

Posted by backoff on June 30, 2007 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Give the chief a break! CFD is one of less than fifty fire depts in the entire country and one of only three in the state of SC that has a Class 1 ISO rating. Chief Thomas must be doing something right! I give credit not only to the chief but to every member of the CFD for the hard work it takes to achieve what they have. Each and every call is different and most of the time decisions on fire scenes are made on a per incident basis, no matter where the procedure recommendations come from, especially when victims may be trapped. Don't crucify one man for this incident. But no matter what, never forget the nine who have given their life for the service of their community.

Posted by bootlicked on June 30, 2007 at 1:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I'll be willing to bet out of those fifty depts the chief has the least amount of education. I'll also be willing to bet we are one of the only class ones that doesn't follow national standards. I'll also be willing to bet not one of those other class ones has a chief that shows his intellect by saying he isn't going to change. I'll be willing to bet nepotismn isn't alive and well in those depts. I personally know six of the nine and fully understand the problems of the cfd. I'll never forgett that is why the truth needs to be told. I hope those left don't stand by and let this tradition live on in the cfd. God bless those bravest of the brave and those brave men and women who serve under those good ol' boys. God bless those strong men and women who also stand tall and ask those hard questions.Thank God we have the IAFF or any other organizations which truly care about our safety. To those who stand by the chief because of the one thing he has done in the past fifteen years you need to wait and comment after the investigation is complete!

Posted by Mythoughts on June 30, 2007 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Firejake, I was talking about CFD not using the IAFF guidelines for fire fighting!

Posted by bickleseagrave on June 30, 2007 at 8:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Out of all the comments on here, these remarks from "firejake" seem to have hit the nail on the head. Well said!

Posted by firejake on June 28, 2007 at 1:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ThePhink you obviously do not know anything about this job and said you are not a "fireman" so maybe you should be the one to keep quiet. Brothers from around the country have seen the photos, the videos, and read the stories. They don't tell everything, but they tell A LOT of what happened that night and they pose a lot of questions that need answered. Its a tragedy, we all know that, and we all pray for the families and brothers of the fallen. The Chief is not being blasted on here for that night, he is being blasted for his comment of no changes will be made.

"Our firefighting techniques are not going to change in the city of Charleston Fire Department,"

Thats what the uproar is about. The fire fighters have seen enough to call for these changes, how is that so hard to understand?

Posted by bvfd271 on July 1, 2007 at 9:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I agree with meow,the Chief saying no changes will be made,even after something obviously went,and was done wrong at the scene of the Sofa Super Store Fire.Changes should me made,and if the Chief is unwilling to make the necessary changes to ensure the safety of the Firefighters,then a change should be made,at the top,and hire a Fire Chief who will make the changes,and no longer follow "Old School" tactics of Firefighting.Tradition in the Fire service is one thing,but there are times where tradtion has no place in today's Firefighting.

Posted by bootlicked on July 2, 2007 at 10:53 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Posted by lexco4529 on July 2, 2007 at 11:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

People need to remember that the Charleston FD is one of the oldest Fire Departments in this country and one of the oldest FD Union Locals. With that said, I have a great deal of respect for the Charleston FD and the Chief. But if the chief doesn't realize that our jobs require constant change and training, and that his department is above that change to avoid not only death but even the slightest injury, then maybe he needs to seriously think about retirement. If we don't adjust and change especially when something like the tragic deaths of nine of our brothers occurs then we can never expect to keep up with the emergencies that we respond to. Because they are always different, they can and will change in a split second. I commend the leaders from Charleston Local 61, the state association and the IAFF for sensing the urgency to speak up now. I agree with a previous comment that we need healing, but the loss will only hurt more if we don't do something to improve the way we respond to emergencies and another brother or sister loses thier life.

Posted by pointman on July 3, 2007 at 4:25 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just because the city of Charleston has an ISO rating 1 does not make them special. The city spent ALOT of money to obtain this rating. Having just typed this does not take away from the subject we all have been discussing. As I typed earlier; WE LOST NINE (9) MEMBERS OF THE FIRE SERVICE!! IF Chief Thomas is not willing to make changes the he NEEDS TO LEAVE. Yes most of us have been bashing the chief; if changes are not made this will happen again. If Chief Thomas has so much concern for his members step up to the plate and prove it. All of the facts don’t need to be out for changes to be made. The City of Charleston needs to look outside of the box and make some changes.
Now onto all of you bashing the UNION; look into who has been lobbying for safer laws for the fire service. I am in no way implying that our volunteer firefighters aren’t doing there jobs. All I am saying is look at what my UNION is doing for the fire service and its members. The IAFF has the interest of its members and the fire service as a whole in mind. The efforts of the IAFF for the most part benefit all of the fire service. How do you think the death benefit from our government got its teeth? THE IAFF!! Who stepped up to the plate when this tragedy happened and assisted the families? THE IAFF!! I would encourage all of you against the UNION to do some fact finding before speaking or typing against the UNION! We support our members!!

Posted by bootlicked on July 3, 2007 at 5:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)


Posted by tigerfirechief on July 4, 2007 at 12:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am not nor have ever been a member of the C.F.D., so far be from me to criticize another department's current policies or guidelines. Now is not the time to point fingers and start a "witch-hunt" for persons that WE deem responsible. Let us all wait until the investigations are concluded and results are compiled before letting our uninformed accusations fly. NOW is the time to grieve for our brothers of the fire service.
With that being said, what I do know is this; I am sure that those men and their officers were highly trained firefighters. I am also sure that their guidelines were clear and time-proven. It is also true that the inevitable tragedy will happen to our profession. The fire does not care what "procedures" we have, whether we are career or volunteer, union or non-union. Sadly, that is how we learn from our mistakes. If after all the investigations are concluded and the results recommend a change(s) in policy, then they should be implemented. If then the responsible parties are resistent to change, then they should be replaced. It is as simple as that. The statement "That is how we have always done things" cannot do justice to the memory of our fallen brothers when lessons can be learned. We used to wear hip-boots and ride on the tail-board of apparatus once upon a time also.

Posted by bacardirum on July 4, 2007 at 7:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Houston, Tx. area 23 years in the paid fire service. Let's clarify that up front. People who haven't done this shouldn't be commenting on this. I agree with Tigerchief and my heart goes out to Bootlicked. I can't imagine loosing 9 co-workers at a fire. I really can't.

That being said. ISO class 1 is nice it shows lots of training and hydrants checked not by the chief but by the people in the fire stations.

As far as the fire I wasn't there. Yes, I have seen the videos and the photos. I don't like Chief Thomas's comments and his attitude toward the IAFF. I think he could have avoided a lot of this by saying something like we will look at the investigation and see what we can change to prevent this. The incident commander is fighting the fire. Granted that's old school.

The problem here is this is casting a shadow on 9 brave people who lost thier lives. 9 people jumped up and ran to big red trucks without hesitation to speed to the Sofa Store knowing they might not come back. They charged into smoke knowing what could happen. These were fathers, sons and husbands who will now not come home. I guarantee you (although I have never been to Charleston) there are people who are very good at what they do in the Charleston Fire Dept. If you call 911 today on July the 4th in Charleston and yell fire a new group of brave men will jump up and race to where ever you are. I didn't have the prevlidge of knowing any of these brave souls but I will bet you if you asked Captain Benke or Hutchinson what they did they would look you proudly in the eye and tell you they were fire fighters in Charlston, SC.

Posted by jtcollier on July 7, 2007 at 7:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Plain ignorant! He lost 9 people and there is NO room for improvement? That is dangerous and a politician talking. God bless those 9 souls and god bless the souls still working in that city. I hope it gets better!


Posted by bootlicked on July 8, 2007 at 8:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sounds like he needs to run for mayor in Seneca.

Posted by THISMUSTSTOP on July 11, 2007 at 9:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

For those of you that think it's too early to start pointing fingers and calling for the Chief's job, IT'S NOT!
This fire that took the lives of 9 firefighters has been predicted for years. The Chief was just as retarded and ignorant 10 years ago as he is today. The standards didn't change three months ago, they made significant changes many many years ago. The Chief of Charleston just chose to ignore them. Stop telling us firefighters to back off of the Chief. We all know it's his ignorant country boy &%# that allowed 1940's tactics to still be in place.

You people talk about his tactics saving lives and property. Guess what??? The only life saved that night was done so by St. Andrews Firefighters, not Rusty's tactics. Do you know how many sofas were saved??? None, not one sofa made it out. His outdated tactics didn't save anything that night.

Luck is the only thing that has kept this from happening sooner.

Posted by bootlicked on July 11, 2007 at 10:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

God bless you. Are you disgruntled? I cannot imagine why.

Posted by bootlicked on July 12, 2007 at 8:18 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Everyone with thier class one comments. I beleive I am going to get a Class 1 tattoo on my @$$ because I beleive they must really think that is of the utmost importance when it comes to the fireservice.Then when they if they choose can kiss it like they are kissing Rusty's.You can have a department with everyone having a phd in fire science and all with 40yrs of experience but without fire stations close enough to have a quick response time they will never achieve a class 1 iso rating. Without adequate hydrants available they will never achieve it. They can have the best training and technology but never achieve it.Class one doesn't have a thing to do with the competence of your fire chief or your training. Look it up.

Posted by straightstream on July 15, 2007 at 9:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Training is where this all comes from and the Chief, and his designee, are going to have to explain their actions in the future be it during civil suits or an independent review.

Posted by bootlicked on July 15, 2007 at 11:52 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I guess I should have said class one must not have a thing to do with the competence of your fire chief or your training.

Posted by easy on July 19, 2007 at 8:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Myrtle Beach Fire Chief and City Manager are just like Rusty and Mayor Joe. They know it all and you cannot tell them anything.

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