17 Years Later: Charleston Fire Department to honor 9 firefighters killed in Sofa Super Store fire

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Tuesday will mark 17 years since nine of Charleston’s bravest were killed while responding to a massive furniture store fire off Savannah Highway.

The Charleston Fire Department (CFD) will honor the fallen with a ceremony held annually at the Charleston 9 Memorial Park. The park was established where the Sofa Super Store once stood.

Fire personnel will initiate a watch at the flagpole in the park beginning at midnight and continuing for 24 hours on June 18.

A ceremony with family, firefighters, and leadership will begin at 7 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the department’s Facebook page.


Fire alarms sounded at the Sofa Super Store on the evening of June 18, 2007. Black smoke poured from the furniture store and warehouse as firefighters arrived to battle the flames.

A 911 call was received saying an employee was trapped inside the building.

Firefighters rushed inside and rescued the worker; however, the fire quickly consumed the building once the worker was freed.

Nine firefighters inside the building sent a “mayday call” soon after. The fire caused the roof to collapse, trapping them in the structure. It would be their last call.

“Tonight… a great and heroic tragedy has befallen our community. Brave members of the City of Charleston Fire Department, fighting this massive blaze in a store filled with fuel, among the most combustible of fuel, a sofa store. This massive fire has produced several City of Charleston firefighters who are now missing,” said then-Charleston Mayor Joe Riley as he addressed the community that night.


The fallen were recovered and carried out of the building by their fellow firefighters.

Firefighter Brandon Thompson, Engineer Bradford Baity, Captain Louis Mulkey, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Captain Mike Benke, Captain William Hutchinson, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Assistant Engineer Michael French, Firefighter Earl Drayton


The firefighters, known to the community as the ‘Charleston 9,’ were memorialized on June 22, 2007, as a procession of more than 300 fire engines, ladder trucks, ambulances, and command vehicles – stretching roughly 7.5 miles – moved in a single line along a route that passed each of the three fire stations where the fallen worked and the furniture site.

People across the area, including law enforcement and ATF agents, gathered along the streets to pay their respects.

The procession moved along I-526 to the North Charleston Coliseum where about 30,000 people gathered for a memorial service. Charleston city officials estimated there were as many as 8,000 firefighters representing over 700 emergency services agencies from across the country in attendance.

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Author: Tim Renaud