Charleston Fire Chief Carr hospitalized

Retirement party delayed for chief who re-engineered department after Sofa Super Store fire that killed 9 firefighters

By Glenn Smith
The Post and Courier

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A planned retirement celebration for ailing Charleston Fire Chief Thomas Carr has been put on hold following his hospitalization this week because of complications from his ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease, city officials said.

Carr, 57, checked into Medical University Hospital over the weekend for treatment, and it is unknown how long he will be there, Fire Department spokesman Mark Ruppel said Tuesday. Ruppel said he had no more details on Carr's condition. The hospital would not provide information on the chief.

Friday is Carr's last day on the job, and a party in his honor was to have been held at the Charleston Maritime Center. The event, which was open to the public, has been postponed indefinitely, Ruppel said.

Deputy Fire Chief Frank Finley will serve as interim chief until Carr's successor is chosen. The city launched a nationwide search in December to find a new fire chief to lead the 319-person department. Oregon-based Emergency Services Consulting International is assisting with the search.

The application process for the job closed Feb. 17, Ruppel said. City officials have not announced when interviews will be conducted and a new chief selected.

Carr announced his retirement plans in September, citing the effects of the aggressive, debilitating illness, which is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.

Carr's physical decline has been plain to see. He has trouble getting around, his complexion is pale and his voice is thin. But he has remained mentally sharp and full of ideas. He can still recite chapter and verse of obscure fire codes and standards at will.

Carr became fire chief in November 2008, taking the reins of a department still grieving and rebuilding from the Sofa Super Store blaze that killed nine city firefighters the year before. He is widely credited with adopting modern techniques and standards, as well as charting a more coordinated, regional approach to firefighting.

He was named Career Fire Chief of the Year by the International Association of Fire Chiefs in 2010.

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