Construction At S.C. Furniture Store Where Fire Killed 9 Was Completed Without Permit

Tuesday, June 26th 2007, 10:05 pm
By: News On 6

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ A roof at a furniture store loading dock where a fire that killed nine firefighters began was built without a required permit, a city official said Tuesday.

The dock was located between the showroom at the Sofa Super Store and a large warehouse. Both were gutted by the June 18 fire, the worst single loss of U.S. firefighters' lives since the Sept. 11 attacks.

``Anytime you modify anything, particularly with a commercial building, you are required to get a permit,'' said Laura Cabiness, Charleston's public services director. Cabiness said it was not clear whether the roof work would have required safety features such as sprinklers.

``We haven't determined that yet. There are a lot of factors that go into an addition,'' she said. ``We don't have enough information on it at this point.''

Building codes did not require the now-charred showroom or warehouse to have sprinklers.

Officials said they did not know about the work until The (Charleston) Post and Courier published aerial pictures of the damage following last week's fire.

Federal officials have traced the fire to a trash bin on the loading dock, but have not released a cause. The loading dock and another area where used furniture was stored until it could be disposed of was sometimes used by employees for cigarette breaks.

Owner Herb Goldstein did not think a permit was needed to build a roof over the loading dock, said Colleen Troy, a spokeswoman for the store. ``It was a deck that the employees used for loading and for working and they had complained over time about the heat and so they covered it,'' she said.

Troy said the work had occurred sometime since 2001 and said the loading dock has existed since the 1990s.

Meanwhile, the last of the funerals for the nine fallen firefighters was also held Tuesday. Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. and Fire Chief Rusty Thomas flew to southern Indiana along with 19 members of the Charleston Fire Department for the funeral of engineer Mark Kelsey.

Kelsey, 40, had served on the department for more than a dozen years after 12 years in the Navy. Hundreds of people filled the high school gymnasium in Washington, Ind., where he had been a wrestling star.