Charleston Fire Chief Thomas Carr Jr. told his department Wednesday that he plans to retire as of March 1.
Carr was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease a few years ago. His physician recently determined he has a more serious condition known as Multiple Systems Atrophy that is similar to Parkinson’s but progresses more quickly, according to a letter Mayor Joseph P. Riley wrote to City Council dated Wednesday.
Carr met with his family and determined the new diagnosis would require him to retire, Riley wrote.
In a prepared statement, Carr said the department will focus on moving forward as the search for his replacement begins.
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Carr took over as 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. The challenge appealed to him, as did the chance to make a difference, he said.
Carr is widely credited with adopting modern techniques and standards, as well as charting a more coordinated, regional approach to firefighting. He has opened lines of communication with the local firefighters union and involved everyone from assistant chiefs to the rank-and-file in drafting a new playbook for the Fire Department.
Last summer, Carr was awarded Career Fire Chief of the Year by the International Association of Fire Chiefs.