WEST ASHLEY, S.C. (WCBD) – The Charleston Fire Department, families of the fallen firefighters, and the community came together for a ceremony at the Charleston 9 Memorial Park on Saturday evening.

15 years ago, nine City of Charleston firefighters died while responding to a large fire at the Sofa Superstore on Savannah Highway.

To commemorate the anniversary, CFD held a remembrance ceremony on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

“The fire department and the community will and must never forget the sacrifice that these nine men and their families have made,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said.

153 Charleston Fire Department members conducted a watch at the flagpole of the park for 24 hours on June 18.

“15 years ago I was much different when I was standing at the pump panel, lost and confused. About forty feet to my right looking at the building collapse wondering what I was supposed to do. To where I am today with the rest of our department,” said David Griffin, Assistant Chief of Administration.

Since the fire, the CFD has improved fire inspections and codes. According to Assistant Chief Griffin, almost everything in the department has changed, from their leadership style to equipment.

We remember and honor those nine lives on this 15th anniversary:

  • Captain Billy Hutchinson
  • Captain Louis Mulkey
  • Captain Mike Benke
  • Engineer Brad Baity
  • Engineer Mark Kelsey
  • Assistant Engineer Michael French
  • Firefighter Brandon Thompson
  • Firefighter Earl Drayton
  • Firefighter Melvin Champaign

Days before the anniversary, Hunter Benke, son of Captain Mike Benke, graduated from the department’s recruit program as he follows in his father’s footsteps.

“Just knowing that legacy of the Benke family and the legacy of his father is living on through him is more than I could ever ask for,” said Fire Chief Dan Curia on Saturday.