It was June 18th, 2007 at 7:09 PM. When the alarm sounded, firefighters sprang into action. Black smoke poured out of the Sofa Superstore and into Savannah Highway. As firefighters begin to battle the flames, a 911 call comes in, an employee is trapped inside.
Firefighters rush inside and rescue that employee, but once he is out, the fire quickly consumes the building. The firefighters call “mayday”, and that is one of the last things we hear from the nine heroes inside.
Charleston’s Mayor, Joe Riley, addresses the media that night and says, “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 Fire Fighters who are now missing.”
The next morning, one by one, each firefighter is carried out of the store by their brothers, in a silent a solemn salute. Engineer Brad Baity, Captain Mike Benke, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton, Assistant Engineer Michael French, Captain Billy Hutchinson, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Captain Louis Mulkey, and Firefighter Brandon Thompson, remembered by the Lowcountry as the Charleston 9.