Settlement Reached in South Carolina Blaze that Killed 9 Firefighters

January 14, 2008

The owners of a Charleston furniture store that burned down and killed nine firefighters agreed to pay $13,110 in fines but they admitted no wrongdoing, state regulators announced last week.

The Sofa Super Store was initially fined $32,775 for three violations in the June 18, 2007, blaze, the nation’s greatest loss of firefighters since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

The store was fined for having padlocked doors and cited for fire doors that did not work. The business was also fined for not having an emergency action plan in place for its employees.

The store also agreed to review fire safety procedures at its other locations.

“I would say that we’re satisfied that a reasonable resolution has been reached, and the company is doing everything they can to promote safety,” store attorney Richard Rosen said.

The settlement must be approved by the chairman of the state occupational safety review board, and regulators would not discuss the agreement until then.

The “modest fines will do little to encourage businesses to boost safety and prevent the future loss of life,” Roger Yow, president of Local 61 of the International Association of Firefighters, said in a prepared statement.

Last month, the city of Charleston agreed to pay $3,160 in fines but also acknowledged no wrongdoing. The city was cited for failing to enforce requirements on protective gear and breathing equipment, and not having written procedures for command at fires.

The city has since changed its protective equipment requirements.

Officials still have not announced a cause for the blaze, though authorities have said the fire began near a loading dock where employees said they took cigarette breaks.

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