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Nine Fire Fighters Perish in South Carolina Warehouse Fire

(Updated June 22, 2007) -- Nine fire fighters in Charleston, South Carolina, died June 18 in a tragic furniture warehouse fire.

Top row, from left: Brandon Thompson, Rodney “Brad” Baity, Louis Mulkey; middle row, from left: Mark Kelsey, Mike Benke, William Hutchinson; Bottom row, from left: Melven Champaign, Michael French, and James Drayton.
“We have lost nine members of our family in this horrific fire,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “As fire fighters, we know the risks of answering the call, but it does not lessen our pain when the worst happens.”

The fire broke out about 7:00 p.m. June 18 in the Sofa Super Store and warehouse. Witnesses said the store's roof collapsed, throwing debris over about two-dozen rescue workers.

The nine fire officers and fire fighters have been identified as Captain William "Billy" Hutchinson, 48; Captain Theodore M. "Mike" Benke, 49; Captain Louis Mulkey, 34; engineer Mark Kelsey, 40; engineer Rodney Bradford "Brad" Baity, 37; assistant engineer Michael French, 27; fire fighter James "Earl" Drayton, 56; fire fighter Brandon Thompson, 27; and fire fighter Melven Champaign, 46.

Baity was treasurer of Charleston Local 61.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. The IAFF will continue to update this story as information becomes available.

The IAFF has established THE IAFF CHARLESTON FIRE FIGHTERS JUNE 18 FUND to provide financial assistance to the families of the nine fire fighters who lost their lives in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 18, 2007. Contributions to this fund, which are not tax deductible as charitable contributions, can be mailed to the following address:

c/o IAFF General Secretary-Treasurer’s Office
1750 New York Avenue, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006

Cards and flowers can be sent to:

Charleston Fire Department Headquarters
46 Wentworth St.
Charleston, SC 29401

Charleston Local 61 web site

Visitations and Funerals

Visitation and funeral information for the three IAFF members who died in Charleston on June 18 is as follows:

Visitation for Brad Baity will be Friday, June 22 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at West Ashley/Stuhr Chapel, 3360 Glenn McConnell Parkway, Charleston, SC 29414. The funeral will be held Saturday, June 23 at 3:00 p.m. at Charleston Baptist Church, 13 San Miguel Road, Charleston, SC 29407.

Visitation for Mike Benke will be Friday, June 22 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at West Ashley/Stuhr Chapel, 3360 Glenn McConnell Parkway, Charleston, SC 29414. The funeral will be held Saturday, June 23 at 11:00 a.m. at Palmetto Community Church, 1965 Bees Ferry Road, Charleston, SC 29414.

The funeral for Earl Drayton will be Saturday, June 23, at 1:00 p.m. at Joshua Baptist Church, 2482 Faber Road, Charleston, SC 29405.

Message from IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger

Read the news coverage:
Firefighters scramble to get to S.C. (Telegram & Gazette)

9 Firefighters Die in South Carolina Blaze (New York Times)

Tragedy in South Carolina resonates in city firehouses (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Store became a deadly 'inferno' (Chicago Tribune)

Profiles on the 9 fallen SC firefighters (Kansas City Star)

S.C. blaze revives Worcester pain (Boston Globe)

Nine 'courageous firefighters' die in warehouse blaze (CNN)

Charleston deaths highest firefighter death toll since Sept. 11 attacks (CBS2 News)

S.C. Warehouse Fire Kills 9 Firefighters (ABC News)

'Tornado of flames' kills nine firefighters’ (CNN)

S.C. warehouse fire kills 9 firefighters (Associated Press)

9 Firefighters Killed In Charleston Blaze (CBS News)

Nine Firefighters Die in South Carolina Furniture Store Fire (Bloomberg)

Nine US firefighters killed in warehouse blaze (Reuters)

Blaze Kills 9 Firefighters in South Carolina (NPR)

Links to video:

Flashover Possible in Deadly S.C. Fire (AP Video)

Furniture Store Fire: Eyewitness Video (NBC, Charleston)

Sofa Super Store Fire (ABS News, Charleston)

Nine Firefighters Killed In West Ashley Fire (Live 5 News)

Tornado of Flames Kills 9 Firefighters (CNN)

Tragedy strikes S.C. firefighters (MSNBC)


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