Charleston fire chief announces retirement, cites health concerns

By Natalie Caula

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Charleston's fire chief says life - changing news led him to announce an early retirement on Wednesday.

Carr announced he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2010 and would remain throughout the remainder of his five year commitment.

But, Wednesday morning Carr announced to members of the Charleston Fire Department at the Charleston Maritime Center that due to a new diagnosis, he would have to cut his time short with the department. He will retire on March 1, 2012 due to health concerns.

Chief Carr released a statement Wednesday--

"Unfortunately, my doctor now believes I have one of the more severe syndromes of Parkinsonism. The syndrome is known as Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). MSA is a rapidly developing, debilitating condition that doesn't respond well to medication."

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley selected Carr, who was working in Montgomery County, Maryland, from a group of 140 applicants in 2008.

"He's such a fine and courageous man and I've watched him deal with his illness without any complaint with enormous courage so when he came to see me and we talked about his more recent diagnosis, the fact he would retire soon became obvious to me," Mayor Riley said.

Carr filled the chief position vacated by Rusty Thomas who announced his retirement in 2008. It was a time of change for the Charleston Fire Department, in the wake of the Sofa Super Store fire. A list of recommendations had been released by an independent review team hired by the city, The Routley group. Carr spear - headed the effort to put all those recommendations in place.

"He's done such a wonderful job of putting all of that together for us and answering the Routley report, refining the fire department, having the firefighters themselves engaged in the process," Charleston City council member Aubry Alexander said.

The next step will be to begin searching for candidates to fill the position. Mayor Riley says a firm will help gather those applicants, then he will present the finalists to the city, the same process conducted in 2008. Charleston City Council will also have a chance to provide input in the process.

The Charleston Firefighters Association (IAFF Local 61) president, T.J. Brennan says members of the association are grateful to have served under Chief Carr. He also says the union looks forward to involvement in the search for a future chief.

" (We) stand willing and eager to assist the City of Charleston in the pursuit of another qualified candidate for the position of fire chief that will be able to meet not only the current and future needs of the fire department, but also the citizens of our great city in the same fashion that Chief Carr has been able to do," he said.

No word on when the search is expected to officially begin.