It’s been over two years since the Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine Charleston firefighters. Since then, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, has been studying the specifics of the fire, including what went wrong, and how it can be used as a learning tool for future fires.
“We were interested in looking at the Charleston fire because of the fact that nine firefighters died as a result of this fire and that’s a large number. Obviously, something happened in this fire where these professionals were not able to get out, and that’s very unusual and we wanted to see what we could learn from this tragedy so that hopefully in the future we can help other firefighters not have this same situation happen to them,” says NIST spokesperson Michael Newman.
Newman says the study has taken over two years because it is done mostly through computer modeling.
“It’s looking at various aspects of the tragedy. The movement of the fire, the impact on the building, the movement of smoke, also considering the movement of the people who were there in the fire, and trying to put all of those pieces together in the model that can be looked at, studied, to determine what might have happened or to what things could have been done differently,” says Newman.
After the results of the study are released, Newman says they hope to be able to find out exactly what happened the night of the fire.
“We’ll be able to make some solid recommendations based on our scientific and technical analysis of the situation that then can be used in terms for improving procedures, attacking fires, improving safety procedures for first responders and then maybe give us some insight on designing buildings a little differently,” says Newman.
NIST also studied the fires at the World Trade Center after 9/11, and the Rhode Island Nightclub blaze that killed 100 people.
The Charleston report is to be released by early fall.