Former Charleston fire chief dies

Former CFD Chief Thomas Carr (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A former leader of the Charleston Fire Department has passed away.

Former fire chief Thomas Carr died following a battle with Multiple System Atrophy, a rapid form of degeneration that mimics Parkinson's disease in its early stages. He was 59 years old.

"Members of the Charleston Fire Department will forever be changed by his leadership," said Fire Chief Karen Brack. "His vision moved this department forward and kept everyone moving in a positive direction. The contributions he made to this community were tremendous. His drive was unmatched and his vision set us on a path to become a remarkable fire service agency."

Chief Carr was hired as Charleston's fire chief in 2008 after he retired as chief of the Montgomery County (Md.) Fire and Rescue Service. He helped reshape and redefine the department following the 2007 Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine Charleston firefighters.

"It's been a challenge, it will continue to be a challenge," former fire chief Thomas Carr said on{}his efforts in changing the procedures and culture of{}the fire department.

In 2010, he announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's, but remained committed to the department. That same year, he was named the Career Chief of the year for his work in improving the department.

"I{}hope my health holds up and if it doesn't{}I think we have a good foundation in place and{}I have confidence in the leadership that we'll do well," Carr said in 2010.

In March of 2012, Thomas{}Carr retired from the department.

Mayor Joe Riley told ABC News 4 he visited with the chief Tuesday night, before he died.

"I had my hand on his arm as I told him what a great leader he'd been and what a wonderful legacy he'd given our region," Riley said. "His implementation of automatic aid in our region was transformative. He was an innovator in the fire service and made a great impact on our region."

Lowcountry firefighter support team leader Gerald Mishoe called Carr a friend and mentor. He said Carr created a community within the fire departments.

"There was certainly more focus on taking care of one another and being there and doing things we needed to do to progress in to the future," Mishoe said.

Colleagues said Carr's biggest accomplishment was the automatic aid program. The program created a smooth chain of command on the scene of a fire and worked to ensure safety for the community and its{}firefighters.

"The closest fire stations respond now regardless of jurisdiction. So sometimes you'll have three different fire departments responding to a call. It puts equipment on the scene much quicker," Mishoe said.

Funeral service information and plans will be announced at a later date.

"He will be sorely missed in Charleston and throughout the fire service community," Brack said.

"Your troops never want to let you down because they respect you and believe in you so much. That's the kind of leader Chief Carr was," Riley said.