Sofa Store Report Faults Leadership, Training, Building Safety

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The Sofa Store Report will be officially released this afternoon, but an advance copy obtained by the AP lays out key findings. The report points to some things we already knew, like that training and command procedures were not up to snuff in Charleston.

But the report also claims, in stark terms, that the leadership in the fire department led to many of the problems on the scene, including a culture that promoted aggressive firefighting tactics that exposed firefighters to avoidable risks. The report also plainly states that a sprinkler system or fire wall would have prevented the fire from spreading beyond the loading deck where it started.

The key findings, as reported by the AP:- Firefighting operations at the Sofa Super Store did not comply with federal regulations, recommended safety standards, or accepted fire service practices.

- The Charleston Fire Department failed to provide adequate direction, supervision and coordination.

- The documented duties and responsibilities of an incident commander were not performed and risk management guidelines were not adequately applied.

- The culture of the Charleston Fire Department promoted aggressive offensive tactics that exposed firefighters to excessive and avoidable risks and failed to apply basic firefighter safety practices.

- Insufficient training, inadequate staffing, obsolete equipment and outdated tactics all contributed to an ineffective effort to control the fire with offensive tactics during the early stages of the incident.

- The Charleston Fire Department continued to apply offensive tactics after the fire had evolved to a point where guidelines called for defensive strategy.

- Factors that should have caused firefighters to be removed from interior positions were not recognized.

- There was a lack of accountability for the location and function of firefighters inside the building.

- The Charleston Fire Department did not have appropriate mayday procedures.

Key findings about the Sofa Super Store building that led to the deaths of nine firefighters:

- The fire originated in discarded furniture and materials that had been placed outside the loading dock. The suspected cause of the fire was careless disposal of smoking materials.

- The Sofa Super Store had a very significant potential for a major fire to occur.

- An automatic sprinkler system should have been installed ... or the buildings should have been divided by fire walls.

- If a sprinkler system had been installed, the fire probably would likely have been controlled within the loading dock area.

- If effective fire walls had been provided, the fire probably would not have spread beyond the loading dock.

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