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Remembering Carr

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Published on: Thursday, May 02, 2013

By Jim Davis

Family members  friends, city leaders and  colleagues along with firefighters from Charleston Fire Department and  from Montgomery County along with firefighters throughout the United States said Farwell to former fire chief Thomas Carr, who died Wednesday evening  surrounded by family and friends after a lengthy battle with an aggressive form of Parkinson s Disease. He was 59.

Chief Carr started his journey in the fire service at the age of 18, when he became a volunteer paramedic with the Bethesda Chevy Chase Rescue Squad. In 1978 Carr was hired by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and appointed to Burtonsville Fire Department as well as becoming a member of Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 1664.

In 2003, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan appointed Carr to become Montgomery Counties first paid Fire Chief.

“We worked together in the field where he was an exemplary fire fighter/medic,” says Local 1664 President John Sparks. “Once he was promoted to chief, we had the opportunity to cultivate a great labor-management relationship. He was not just a chief, but a true friend.”

Over the 32-years with Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service held several positions with the department, he also earned a reputation as a strong, capable leader who, among other things, established a nationally recognized search and rescue program, achieved national accreditation for his fire department and fought to improve firefighter safety.

“Carr was a true professional, dedicated to the safety of the rank-and-file fire fighters under his direction,” says IAFF General President Harold Schaitberge.

In 2008, Carr retired as Fire Chief of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service and became Fire Chief in Charleston, South Carolina, following the June 2007 Sofa Super Store fire where nine fire fighters were lost. “Fire fighters there are now much safer on the job because of his leadership.”

As the new fire chief in Charleston, Carr to reach out to the members of Charleston Local 61. “We gave him our full support,” says Local 61 President Chris Villarreal. “From the beginning, he stood in our corner and fought to bring our department up to date. Not only are we safer on the job, we are better at what we do because of his leadership.”

Villarreal adds, “The news of his passing has left us with heavy hearts. He will be missed.”

In September 2011, Carr retired as Fire Chief of Charleston after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. Four months later, he was named Career Fire Chief of the Year by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, which lauded his vision and achievements.

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