City to mark 10-year anniversary of fatal millwork fire

City to mark 10-year anniversary of fatal millwork fire
(WBTV File)
(WBTV File)
(WBTV File)
(WBTV File)

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - It may be one of the saddest days in Salisbury's long history, and this week will mark the tenth year since it occurred.

On March 7, 2008, two Salisbury firefighters, Justin Monroe and Victor Isler, Jr., were killed while fighting a fire at Salisbury Millworks.  A third firefighter, Rick Barkley, was seriously injured in the same fire.

On Wednesday, the Salisbury Fire Department and the City of Salisbury will hold a special ceremony to commemorate the loss and honor the memory of the fallen.

Previous: Salisbury City Council moves forward with plan to honor fallen firefighters

The service will begin at 8:30 am at the Salisbury Firefighters Memorial in the 1400 block of South Main Street.  The public is invited.

"Structure fire, 1820 South Martin Luther King Jr.," the radios blared that day. Justin Monroe, Vic Isler, and dozens of other Salisbury firefighters responded to the Millworks fire as they would any other. But something went wrong on the morning of March 7, 2008.

A firewall in the building collapsed, trapping the men inside.  Monroe and Isler died in the fire.

Captain Barkley was also seriously injured in the fire and had to be rescued by a rapid intervention team.

Barkley was side by side with Isler and Monroe, but survived the fire, in part by finding a gash in the fire hose, pulling it close to his body, and allowing the water to surround him.

Barkley managed to send a Mayday alert, triggering the rescue.

More than a year after their deaths, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a report about the fire, noting that during the deadly fire, more than 10 percent of radio transmissions were "cut off" and 30 percent could not be understood.

As a result of investigations, the City of Salisbury purchased new radio systems built to tougher, military standards that are designed to work in actual fire conditions such as those found on the Salisbury Millworks incident.

At the time of his death, Monroe was close to completing a degree in fire sciences. Five months after Monroe's death, U.S. Representative Howard Coble presented a posthumous degree from Central Piedmont Community College to Monroe's parents.

Monroe and Isler will also be remembered this coming weekend with the 7th annual benefit sheet shoot.

The event will be held on March 9 and 10 at the Rowan County Wildlife Club on Majolica Road.  More details are available on the poster contained in this story.

Monroe and Isler will also be honored by the naming of the new Salisbury Fire Station #6. The station will be built on 6 acres of now undeveloped property west of U.S. 29 South in the 300 block of Cedar Springs Road.

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