NIST Releases Study on Charleston (SC) Sofa Super Store Fire

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released for public comment a draft report detailing the findings and recommendations from its study of the June 18, 2007, fire at the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine firefighters.

Nelson Bryner, Study Team Leader and Deputy Division Chief, Fire Research Division-NIST, stated, “Our study was focused on our specific expertise, fire science, and we cannot tell you based on our findings how or why the firefighters became trapped. We also cannot tell you whether the decisions made before, during, or after the fire were right or wrong. What we can tell you with reasonable accuracy is the probable technical cause of the fire’s rapid spread and what actions can be taken to hopefully prevent loss of life from a similar type of fire in the future.

“The key lessons learned from our study are that a community’s fire safety depends on the use and enforcement of model building and fire codes that address the specific hazards and fuel loads of different types of spaces. Furniture stores typically have large amounts of combustible material and represent a significant fire hazard. As a result, model building codes should require that both new and existing stores have automatic sprinklers, especially if those stores include large, open display areas.”

The NIST report, news release, and associated materials can be viewed by going to the NIST Web site at

Read the city of Charleston’s report HERE, and read Chief Rich Gasaway’s report on Charleston (SC) FIre Captain Chris Villareal’s presentation on the LODDs at the the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Conference in Duluth HERE.

Listen to a new podcast with J. Gordon Routley, who headed the Charleston panel that investigated the fire, HERE.

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