Charleston picks its new fire chief

From 141 applicants, and seven finalists, Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. has picked Thomas W. Carr, Jr., 54, as the city's new fire chief and leader of its 246 members.

Thomas Carr Thomas Carr Carr is the current fire chief of Montgomery County, Maryland. That county's Web site says this about Carr:
Chief Carr leads and is responsible for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) and has full operational and administrative authority over all facets of the service. Chief Carr supervises nearly 1000 career firefighters and approximately 1100 volunteers who deliver service from over 40 work sites and 19 Local Fire and Rescue Departments (LFRDs). These personnel protect a resident population of almost one million people spread over 497 square miles and respond to 105,000 emergency incidents each year.

Montgomery County has a population of nearly 1 million people.

Charleston's previous fire chief, Rusty Thomas, resigned in June in what can largely be attributed to the nine firefighter deaths at the Sofa Super Store.

Assistant Fire Chief Larry Garvin also left the department in the wake of the fire.

Thought the deal looks all but done, it seems that City Council will need to officially sign off on Carr on October 7.

The City of Charleston had lots to say about the selection of Carr in an e-mailed press release. Here it is:
City of Charleston, S.C. Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. announced today the selection of a new Chief of the City of Charleston Fire Department. He is Thomas W. Carr, Jr., currently serving as Fire Chief of the Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue Service. He will replace Ronald Classen, who has served as Charleston’s Interim Chief since June 27, when 16-year veteran Chief Russell B. Thomas retired.

Mayor Riley said, “The selection of a new Chief of the City of Charleston Fire Department has been one of my most important duties as Mayor. This search drew a tremendous amount of interest in the fire service, and we received 141 applicants from all over America. Last week, we welcomed seven candidates to Charleston, and the community saw what an outstanding group of fire service professionals I had to choose from."

“My commitment from the beginning of this search was to bring to Charleston the best person in America to lead the 246 members of our fire department. In Tom Carr, I have achieved this goal. With his integrity, his character, his experience and his qualifications, he is the right man to lead our Fire Department at this time. Chief Carr’s reputation in Fire Service in America is unsurpassed, and his leadership ability will help us take the Charleston Fire Department to the next level as the finest department in our country.”

Carr has served his entire 30-year career in the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, serving as Chief of 2100 career and volunteer firefighters and paramedics since 2005 (serving a population of 973,000). He holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Maryland University College and a BA from National Louis University. His work in the fields of emergency management, firefighter health and safety and incident command are well known. In partnership with FEMA, he developed one of the first Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Task Forces in the United States, and is a national leader in the area of joint communications systems. He has responded, in a leadership role to several earthquakes and hurricanes, the Oklahoma City bombing and the Pentagon attack on September 11, 2001. He has been one of the leading advocates for the IAFF/IAFC Wellness-Fitness Initiative, which advocates fitness and heath programs for firefighters. He is a great advocate for community education, fire prevention and inspection and advanced code enforcement. He also led the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service to achieve and maintain fire service accreditation through the Commission on fire Accreditation International.

Carr said, “It is a great honor to be selected as Chief of the City of Charleston Fire Department. Charleston is well known as a wonderful and livable city and I have been impressed with the its strong fire rescue team. I am committed to bringing to Charleston the most progressive approaches of the Fire Service in United States. I look forward to working with the exceptional men and women of the City of Charleston Fire Department as we work together to make a great department better and the citizens of Charleston even safer.”

While the search for a new Fire Chief was conducted, the City of Charleston Fire Department was led by Chief Ronald Classen, a 27-year veteran of the department. Classen was set to retire, but stayed on to lead the department until the search for a new Chief could be completed. Mayor Riley said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to Chief Ronnie Classen for his dedication and service to this city over his 27-year career. His willingness to remain with the Department instead of a well deserved retirement afforded me the opportunity to conduct the most thorough search for the best Chief we could find. I knew that he would lead the department well, and he did so in this interim period in an exemplary way.”

Charleston City Council will consider the appointment of Chief Carr at its next regular meeting, on October 7, 2008.

Update September 30: The Post and Courier also has a thorough write-up about Carr that has some good quotes, for example:
Fire Chief magazine Editorial Director Janet Wilmoth said Charleston can expect a noticeable difference with Carr.

"He's incredible, and the people who work for him, I have yet to meet anyone who is not crazy about him," she said.

If you're interested in getting every scrap of info you can on the new fire chief, it's a worthy read. Go read it.

Update October 8: It's official, Carr's been approved by Charleston City Council.

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