Charleston’s new fire chief, Thomas Carr, will be starting work in the next few weeks. He’ll be hard to replace in his former role as fire chief in Montgomer County, Md, according to The Washington Post.
Will the next chief have the same low-key persona that allowed Carr to flourish atop a department that structurally — with its continued reliance on hundreds of volunteers — can be a big headache?
“We’ve had our disagreements, but I hate to see him go,” added Eric N. Bernard, executive director of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. “He has set the bar extremely high for the next person.”
The story also highlights some struggles Carr has faced in his former job.
Consider the fire stations. Many are still owned by individual, volunteer fire organizations. That was clear over the past few months, when signs started popping up outside fire stations opposing an initiative supported by Carr.
He wants the county to institute an “ambulance fee” that would be charged when accident victims are taken to area hospitals. He says the charge would be paid by insurance companies and other providers. The funds it generates, the chief says, could be used to purchase firefighting equipment.
The story also warns us to prepare for “Big Red.”
Around 1996, he walked into a 7-Eleven and for $4 bought a refillable “Big Gulp” mug with a plastic handle. At the time, Carr had no thought that the thing would become his icon. He still uses the same cup, known around department headquarters as Big Red.
Several years ago, when he was walking across the street and the lid blew off, a top assistant, Scott Graham, tried to chase it down but failed as it was crushed by a bus. When Carr began driving a new Chevrolet Tahoe with cup holders too small for Big Red, a mechanic built him a new console insert.