Rusty Thomas, who has served as head of the Charleston Fire Department since 1992, announced his retirement Wednesday. Thomas will serve until June 27, according to a resignation letter he presented to Mayor Joe Riley. The Post and Courier reports:
Mayor Joe Riley said Wednesday that Thomas came to see him Tuesday afternoon and presented a letter expressing his decision to retire, effective June 27. As recently as last week, Riley expressed unwavering support for Thomas and said he had no doubts that Thomas was the man to lead the department forward.
The announcement comes on the heels of a draft report released by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) that pointed out many problems in the fire department's handling of last year's Sofa Super Store fire. Another report, by a city-appointed panel of experts, is expected to be released this week. Thomas referred to the tragedy in his letter, saying that the fire, in which nine Charleston firefighters lost their lives, "changed me and this department forever." The Post and Courier had this to say about the reports:
The report from the city-appointed panel of consultants is expected to build on a draft of a federal report that he city made public last week. The draft report painted a stark picture of a chaotic scene of firefighters begging for more water to fight back a growing inferno, missing telltale warning signs of impending doom and commanders issuing orders that conflicted with basic firefighting principles.