Search Under Way for Charleston, SC Fire Chief

The opening was posted Dec. 9 by Emergency Services Consulting International. Chief Thomas W. Carr Jr., who headed the fire department through its recovery from the tragic Sofa Super Store fire in June 2007, is retiring because he has Parkinson's disease.

Charleston, S.C., has begun its search for a new fire chief to replace Chief Thomas W. Carr Jr., who headed the city's fire department through its recovery from the tragic Sofa Super Store fire in June 2007. Nine firefighters died in that blaze, and the city made major changes in the department's training, equipment, and procedures. The chief in charge at the time of the fire swiftly retired.

The nine deaths in that fire made it the largest single loss of life for the fire service since 9/11. Reports analyzing the errors made in fighting the June 2007 fire were widely read within the fire service as the city worked to bring the department up to national standards.

Carr announced Sept. 14 that he will retire March 1, 2012, because he has Parkinson's disease. "Unfortunately, my doctor now believes I have one of the more severe syndromes of Parkinsonism," Carr said in a statement posted that day by the department. "The syndrome is known as Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). MSA is a rapidly developing, debilitating condition that doesn't respond well to medication. As a result of this change in my diagnosis and prognosis, I will be retiring on March 1, 2012. For the next six months we will continue to focus on moving the Department forward as a search for my replacement is conducted."

Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. reminded City Council members in a Sept. 14 memo about Carr that the chief was honored as Career Fire Chief of the Year in 2010 by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. "He has supervised the acquisition of new equipment and implemented national best practices in training and fire safety for our firefighters and citizens," Riley wrote. "He has overseen the largest recruit classes in the City of Charleston Fire Department's history and implemented officer's candidate school, a national best practice and national model. He has fostered a regional fire response system with cross-training from other fire departments in the region that has improved fire protection across the region. A resident of our community, whether they are in the City of Charleston or another jurisdiction, will have departments responding from the nearest jurisdiction to the fire, familiar with the same equipment, using the same procedures and protocols. He has admirably marshaled the Department through a challenging transition."

The opening was posted Dec. 9 by Emergency Services Consulting International. The job pays a salary range of $120,000 to $135,000 annually. The department's projected 2012 budget is approximately $22.4 million, according to ESCI's application documents. Applications are due by 4 p.m. PST on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012, and telephone interviews of selected candidates will begin around Jan. 30.

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