Charleston, S.C. Fire Fatalities Worst Since 9-11

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Charleston's fire chief says he lost nine of his best friends in the fire that swept through a furniture warehouse, collapsed its roof and killed nine firefighters inside.

The National Fire Protection Association says that makes it the worst single incident to claim firefighters' lives since the September 11 terrorist attacks, which killed 340 firefighters, two paramedics and a chaplain.

Chief Rusty Thomas says his department has a "long road ahead," but he says they're "going to stand tall."

President Bush says the commitment of the firefighters is "an inspiration to all Americans."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Arson is not believed to be a cause.

Officials say they are unsure whether there were sprinklers in the building.