CHARLESTON, S.C. -- In Charleston, S.C. nine white crosses signify the presence of nine firefighters who made the supreme sacrifice. They died together Monday night, saving lives -- losing their own in the process. It is the worst loss of firefighters since 9/11. The deadly fire began around seven o'clock Monday night and quickly flew through a furniture store. Eyewitness Juanita Washington said, "Flames, flames. I've never seen anything like it, only on TV." Witnesses say the entire single-story structure burst into flames, then caved in, burying firefighters inside. Debris and hot ash showered those outside, as well. The heat was so intense that firefighters where overcome by conditions and emotions. Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley said, "Nine brave, heroic, courageous firefighters of the City of Charleston have perished fighting fire in a most courageous and fearless manner, carrying out their duties..." As the bodies of the victims were removed from the rubble one by one other firefighters and rescue workers stood by and saluted. Later the coroner released the names of those who perished. The disaster was the deadliest blaze in the history of the Charleston Fire Department. The scene of the tragedy has become a makeshift memorial to the fallen heroes. The store owner released a statement saying everyone at his business is "devastated and heartbroken." The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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