For South Carolina’s Charleston Fire Department change has come rapidly and in the most difficult of ways. After the deaths of nine firefighters at the Sofa Super Store fire on June 18, 2007, the department has remade itself in ways both dramatic and inspiring. For the first time, the nation’s fire service gets a close-up view of those changes through the eyes of company officers, command staff, peer counselors, community leaders and survivors in a new documentary called “Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice.”
Produced by STATter911 Communications and Greg Guise Media for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the half-hour video focuses on what some firefighters describe as a generation’s worth of operational changes in just five years, all geared to the safety of firefighters and the public. Battalion Chief Mark Davis puts it this way, “Our name is still the same. Everything else has changed.”
Such change doesn’t come easy and without significant challenges. Firefighters are quick to credit the leadership of Chief Tom Carr. The video looks at Chief Carr’s management style and how he simultaneously dealt with his own challenge of a debilitating disease. Chief Carr, who was interviewed for the film, was able to view the final version about six weeks before his death last month at age 59.
“On behalf of the hardworking members of the City of Charleston Fire Department, we hope you will view this video with an eye on what has been accomplished by the department to honor the sacrifice of the Charleston 9 and the dedicated leadership of the late Chief Tom Carr. I am proud to be a part of the legacy of progress our members forge every day,” commented Chief Karen E. Brack.
“Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice” also shows the important work in the area of behavioral health as peer counselors helped firefighters deal with the loss of close friends and co-workers.
“We are extremely grateful to everyone affiliated with the Charleston Fire Department who willingly shared their insights and experiences,” Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, NFFF executive director said. “The lessons learned from the loss of nine brave firefighters, the amazing progress in the tragedy’s aftermath and Chief Carr’s leadership are invaluable to the fire service.”