It’s never easy to lose firefighters at an incident. But each line-of-duty death provides an opportunity to pinpoint dangers — both operational and situational — that line firefighters face. For example, the NIST released a revised, final report based on comments provided by organizations and individuals in response to its draft report released for public comment on Oct. 28, 2010.has been studying the 2007 Sofa Super Store Fire in Charleston, S.C., that trapped and killed nine firefighters. And this week
Such revisions did not change NIST’s original, core findings — large, open spaces with furniture provided high-fuel loads, while the inward rush of air following as a result of breaking windows and a lack of sprinklers permitted the fire to spread. In addition, researchers stood by their 11 recommendations for enhancing building, occupant and firefighter safety nationwide. Specifically, they urged state and local communities to adopt national building and fire-safety codes and ensure they are enforced . In fact, if today's codes had been in place and followed in Charleston, the conditions that led to the rapid fire spread in the Sofa Super Store probably could have been prevented, according to the report.
However, two of the recommendations in the draft report were modified. The recommendation "that all state and local jurisdictions ensure that fire inspectors and building plan examiners are professionally qualified to a national standard" was improved by listing three nationally accepted certification examinations as examples of "how professional qualification may be demonstrated." Another recommendation has been enhanced by urging state and local jurisdictions to "provide education to firefighters on the science of fire behavior in vented and non-vented structures and how the addition of air can impact the burning characteristics of the fuel,” according to NIST.
Indeed, the report calls for national building and fire codes to require sprinklers for all new commercial retail furniture stores regardless of size, as well as for existing retail furniture stores with any single display area of greater than 2,000 square feet. Other recommendations include adopting codes that cover high-fuel load situations, ensuring proper fire inspections and building plan examinations, and encouraging research for a better understanding of fire situations — such as venting smoke from burning buildings and the spread of fire on furniture.
While such reports won’t ease the pain fallen firefighters’ families have endured, the recommendations should be taken seriously to prevent future line-of-duty deaths. Now that the recommendations have been finalized, it is essential the fire service gets the support of its local jurisdictions to ensure fire codes are met, violators are punished and new sprinkler laws are passed to ensure what happened in Charleston never happens again.