S.C. Store Owner where 9 Firefighters Died Wishes He Had Sprinklers

September 6, 2007

The owner of a Charleston, S.C. furniture store where nine firefighters died said he wished he had put sprinklers in the building.

But Herb Goldstein said they were expensive and not required when he build the massive Sofa Super Store showroom and warehouse in 1992, according to a story to be published Wednesday in The Post and Courier.

Goldstein said he doesn’t know what caused the fire, but he thinks it was an accident. The wreckage of the store has been kept on site on the recommendation of his insurance company, but will likely be moved soon, he said.

“No one said this is a dangerous product and you need sprinklers,” Goldstein told the Charleston newspaper in his first in-depth interview since the June 18 fire.

Authorities have said sprinklers would have at least delayed the spread of the deadly fire.

Goldstein told the newspaper no one pointed out possible fire hazards in his building that have been reported since the blaze and he would have fixed anything that was wrong.

He said he is not making excuses and hasn’t been able to eat, sleep or relax in the past three months.

“I went from having a perfect life that couldn’t have been better to total misery now,” Goldstein said.

But Goldstein said he knows the friends and family of the nine dead firefighters have gone through so much more.

“I didn’t lose any loved ones,” Goldstein said. “I can’t imagine what the families of the firefighters are going through.”

The nine killed were the greatest single loss of firefighters since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The fire started in a loading dock area where store employees took cigarette breaks. The cause is still under investigation.

Goldstein, 65, has not responded to several requests for an interview from The Associated Press.

Since the blaze, investigators have pointed out several possible code violations, including a building addition that was constructed without permits and at least one back door that Goldstein said was locked with a padlock at night to thwart break-ins.

“Right or wrong, I depended on the fire department to make me aware of any potential problems,” he said. “Had I known there was a danger, I would have corrected them immediately.”

The dedication of the firefighters who went into his burning store still awes Goldstein, who said they will always be in his heart and prayers.

“We can’t tell you how much we appreciate what you do and that your courage is just amazing,” he said.

Information from: The Post and Courier,

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