The Charleston 9

I know that this isn’t technically related to Ezra, but it is an important thing to discuss today. One year ago, nine firefighters gave their lives in Charleston, South Carolina attempting to save life and property. It is the single deadliest incident in the fire service since September 11, and is an unprecedented loss for all of us.

I was at work the night of the furniture store fire, and as the reports started rolling in, we all jumped on the computers searching for more information. 2 lost, then 3, then 5, then 7, then finally 9. It was one of the most heart breaking, stomach turning nights of our lives.

There are a lot of things that went wrong contributing to their deaths: many of them systemic problems within the Charleston Fire Department, many of them systemic problems within the fire service in general, many of them poor decisions that night. However, while it is arguable that their deaths were unnecessary or preventable; it is inarguable that they are heroes in the truest sense of the word. 

All that we can do now as a fire profession is learn from what happened on June 18, 2007 and make sure that it never happens again through training and dedication. What we must do as a nation is to never forget the sacrifice that they made, and the sacrifice that your local firefighters are making as you read this. Each year about 100 firefighters die in the line of duty.

Here is the Charleston Firefighters Union page.

Here is an excellent page dedicated to the incident by the Charleston Post and Courier.

Here is a video about a basketball team (that one of the firefighters coached) that will brings tears to your eyes. 

Here’s to you: Captain William “Billy” Hutchinson, 48, 30 years of service; Captain Mike Benke, 49, 29 years of service; Captain Louis Mulkey, 34, 11.5 years of service; Engineer Mark Kelsey, 40, 12.5 years of service; Engineer Bradford “Brad” Baity, 37, 9 years of service; Asst. Engineer Michael French, 27, 1.5 years of service; Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton, 56, 32 years of service; Firefighter Brandon Thompson, 27, 4 years of service; Firefighter Melvin Champaign, 46, 2 years of service.


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