Subject guide: Charleston Sofa Super Store Fire

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The Charleston Sofa Super Store fire of June 18, 2007 claimed the lives of nine firefighters, the highest number of firefighter fatalities in a single event since 9/11. This resource page brings together in one spot a comprehensive overview of all major reports concerning this tragedy published to date. Also included as helpful background material are numerous magazine articles, videos, audio files, photos and more. Taken together, these materials afford students of this incident an overview of great breadth and depth.

Initial investigation

The ATF conducted an initial origin and cause investigation from June 19-22, 2007 and determined the point of origin was in an area of discarded furniture in the loading dock area. The cause was left undetermined but there was strong reason to believe that a discarded cigarette may have been the ignition source.

Phase I Routley report

In the aftermath of the fire the city of Charleston hired a task force of independent experts, headed by J. Gordon Routley, to examine the tragedy. It released its 39-page Phase I report in October 2007. This report set forth some 200 recommended changes for the City of Charleston Fire Department. These were grouped into three priority levels with varying timelines for implementation. Top priority items included the categories of training, apparatus staffing, overtime and compensatory time, administrative cultural leadership, firefighter selection, dispatch and communications, regional cooperation, health and safety programs, respiratory protection, personal protective clothing, firefighter uniforms, apparatus, tools and equipment, and fire and building code enforcement.

Phase I Routley report – see also:

Phase II Routley report

The 272-page Phase II report was released on May 15, 2008, and provided an in-depth incident analysis of the Sofa Super Store fire. Included in the report are an incident chronology, an overview of the building in which the fire occurred, an analysis of fire department operations including incident management, firefighter safety and tactical operations and it concludes with lessons and recommendations.

Phase II Routley report – see also:

NIOSH fatality assessment and control evaluation

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a fire fighter fatality investigation and issued their report in February 2009. It examined issues relating to personal protective equipment of the victims, their level of training, problems with water supply, mutual aid and command and control among other factors. Included in their report are a detailed timeline and a sequence of events that led to the tragedy. The report makes 43 recommendations for what fire departments should do in order to avoid a reoccurrence of such an incident.

NIOSH fatality assessment and control evaluation – see also:

NIST technical study of the Sofa Super Store Fire

The final two volume NIST technical study was released on March 14, 2011. It focused on the structural conditions of the building and how it was impacted by the fire's progression. The report was particularly critical of the lack of installed fire protection. During the course of this technical study, NIST was able to identify the reasons for the rapid spread of fire and smoke, and the reasons for the difficulties encountered by the firefighters as they attempted to exit the main showroom. The NIST study made 11 recommendations for enhancing building, occupant and firefighter safety nationwide.

NNIST technical study of the Sofa Super Store Fire – see also:


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