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Charleston Super Sofa Fire Investigation

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This paper tells that despite reportedly beginning their investigation “ before the ashes were cold” , the report from National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states that they learned of the Charleston fire from the national media. The investigation began on June 20, and continued for several weeks, involving representatives from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, and the South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration; both the NIST and the NIOSH published lengthy reports of their results.

Originally, the city of Charleston fire department was resistant to the investigation, and the fire chief denied federal investigators access to interview the surviving members of the department. It took pressure from the head of the CDC before the fire chief allowed them to speak to the other fire fighters, including a letter which was sent to both the fire chief and the mayor of the city. The CDC reports that while they are responsible for investigations into fire fighter injuries and fatalities, they are not able to compel departments to comply with those investigations.

The fire chief insisted several times that the department had been correct in its actions and that their policies would not undergo any major changes as a result of the fire. The mayor, Joseph Riley, also defended the department's policies, saying that Charleston had “ the best chief and the best department” .   The investigative report from the NIOSH is considered to be among the most thorough and exhaustive ever produced. Among its features were a determination of the reasons behind the rapid spread of the fire, recommendations on changes to safety codes, and a minute-by-minute analysis of the events of that night.

While the report is not intended to be punitive and certainly does not blame the victims themselves, it definitively places the Charleston Fire Department as the guilty party in the deaths of the Charleston Nine.

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