On Monday, June 18, 2007, the Charleston Fire Department lost nine brave firefighters while battling a devastating blaze at a furniture store. These heroes were memorialized on June 22, 2007. A procession of more than 300 fire engines, ladder trucks, ambulances, and command vehicles stretched approximately 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) and moved single-file along a route which passed each of the three fire stations from which firefighters were lost, as well as past the site of the fatal fire. Bystanders, police officers, and ATF agents paid their respects by saluting or holding their hands over their hearts.
The procession then moved along Interstate 526 to the North Charleston Coliseum where an estimated 30,000 people, including as many as 8,000 firefighters representing over 700 emergency services agencies from across the United States and Canada, attended the memorial service to honor the fallen heroes.
The Charleston Fire Department continues to honor the "Charleston 9" by striving for excellence in fire service professionalism, leadership, safety, risk reduction, science and technology, and training. Members of the Department also wear commemorative logos on their working uniforms.
Firefighter Brandon Thompson 4 years of service Ladder 5 1 Nicholson Street
Engineer Bradford "Brad" Baity 9 years of service Engine 19 1985 Bees Ferry Road
Captain Louis Mulkey 11.5 years of service Engine 15 162 Coming Street
Engineer Mark Kelsey 12.5 years of service Ladder 5 1 Nicholson Street
Captain Mike Benke 29 years of service Engine 16 81 Ashley Hall Plantation Road
Captain William Hutchinson 30 years of service Engine 19 1985 Bees Ferry Road
Firefighter Melvin Champaign 2 years of service Engine 16 81 Ashley Hall Plantation Road
Assistant Engineer Michael French 1.5 years of service Ladder 5 1 Nicholson Street
Firefighter James "Earl" Drayton 32 years of service Engine 19 1985 Bees Ferry Road
"Their unwavering commitment to their neighbors and to the City of Charleston is an inspiration to all Americans."