Six-years-ago this evening nine Charleston, South Carolina firefighters died when the Sofa Super Store on Savannah Highway burned. In remembering and honoring those firefighters ABC News 4 in Charleston (WCIV-TV) is running the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s documentary “Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice”. The TV station is live streaming the telecast (above) starting at 7:30 PM EDT. It is one of a number of ways people in Charleston today are remembering Captain Louis Mulkey, Captain Mike Benke, Captain William “Billy” Hutchinson, Engineer Bradford “Brad” Baity, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Engineer Michael French, Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton and Firefighter Brandon Thompson.
As one of the producers I would like to publicly thank the management and staff at ABC News 4. In particular, News Director Cathy Hobbs and General Manager Suzanne Teagle who immediately recognized when it was released last month that the video was something they wanted to share with the citizens of Charleston.
Emmitsburg, MD – For South Carolina’s Charleston Fire Department change has come rapidly and in the most difficult of ways. After the deaths of nine firefighters at the Sofa Super Store fire on June 18, 2007, the department has remade itself in ways both dramatic and inspiring. For the first time, the nation’s fire service gets a close-up view of those changes through the eyes of company officers, command staff, peer counselors, community leaders and survivors in a new documentary called “Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice”.
Produced by STATter911 Communications and Greg Guise Media for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the half-hour video focuses on what some firefighters describe as a generation’s worth of operational changes in just five years, all geared to the safety of firefighters and the public. Battalion Chief Mark Davis puts it this way, “Our name is still the same. Everything else has changed.”
Such change doesn’t come easily and without significant challenges. Firefighters are quick to credit the leadership of Chief Tom Carr. The video looks at Chief Carr’s management style and how he simultaneously dealt with his own challenge of a debilitating disease. Chief Carr, who was interviewed for the film, was able to view the final version about six weeks before his death last month at age 59.
“On behalf of the hardworking members of the City of Charleston Fire Department, we hope you will view this video with an eye on what has been accomplished by the department to honor the sacrifice of the Charleston 9 and the dedicated leadership of the late Chief Tom Carr. I am proud to be a part of the legacy of progress our members forge every day,” commented Chief Karen E. Brack.
“Charleston 9: The Ultimate Sacrifice” also shows the important work in the area of behavioral health as peer counselors helped firefighters deal with the loss of close friends and co-workers.
“We are extremely grateful to everyone affiliated with the Charleston Fire Department who willingly shared their insights and experiences,” Chief Ronald J. Siarnicki, NFFF executive director said. “The lessons learned from the loss of nine brave firefighters, the amazing progress in the tragedy’s aftermath and Chief Carr’s leadership are invaluable to the fire service.”
Above, WCIV-TV/ABC News 4 is providing live streaming of the funeral for Chief Tom Carr, former chief in Charleston, SC and Montgomery County, MD scheduled for 2:00 PM EDT. Chief Carr died last week at age 59.
Chief Carr was one of the most wonderful and unique fire chiefs I have had the pleasure of knowing. My condolences to all his family and friends.
A programming note for today. The funeral for Chief Tom Carr in Charleston, South Carolina is scheduled for 2:00 PM EDT. Through arrangements with Chief Carr’s family, the Charleston Fire Department, Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service and WCIV-TV, STATter911.com will carry live streaming of the service.
I am sad to report the death of Chief Tom Carr. The former chief of the Charleston Fire Department in South Carolina and the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service in Maryland passed away at 59-years-old Wednesday evening.
Having first met Tom Carr when he was a lieutenant in Montgomery County, I was quickly impressed with his intelligence and his manner in dealing with people.
Having the opportunity to cover him as a reporter when he was chief was a joy. From my perspective on the outside, Tom Carr was one of those rare individuals who could lead without having to stand in the spotlight to do so. The conversation was never about him and what he has done to lead his department. He didn’t sweat the petty and small things. He always saw the bigger picture and knew how to motivate others to see his vision. As one of his young officers in Charleston told me early last year, “When I’m on Tuesday, Chief Carr’s already on Friday.”
Tom Carr knew the real measure of a fire chief was not how many times he could be on TV, but how well he served his firefighters and how well they served the public.
A former leader of the Charleston Fire Department has passed away.
ABC News 4 has learned that former fire chief Thomas Carr died following a battle with MSA, a rapid form of Parkinson’s disease. He was 59 years old.
Chief Carr was hired as Charleston’s fire chief in 2008. He helped reshape and redefine the department following the 2007 Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine Charleston firefighters.
In 2010, Carr told his staff that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
In March of 2012, Carr retired from the department.
Mayor Joe Riley told ABC News 4 he had visited with the chief recently.
In a statement, Riley said, “Thomas Carr was a great man who left a profound legacy. 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.”
Tomorrow (Monday) is the fifth anniversary of the Sofa Super Store fire that took the lives of nine firefighters in Charleston, South Carolina. Lost in that fire were Engineer Bradford “Brad” Baity, Captain Mike Benke, Firefighter Melvin Champaign, Firefighter James “Earl” Drayton, Asst. Engineer Michael French, Captain William “Billy” Hutchinson, Engineer Mark Kelsey, Captain Louis Mulkey and Firefighter Brandon Thompson.
June 18, 2007 was also a Monday and, as I am now, I was at the beach attending the Maryland State Firemen’s Association Convention in Ocean City. STATter911.com was a little more than a month old when the fire occurred. Here are my first two posts on the fire as information began to trickle out that evening and into the next morning:
One TV station reports 2 firefighters missing at a fire this evening at the Sofa Superstore on Route 17. Another quotes long-time Charleston Mayor Joe Riley as saying “several local firefighters” are missing.
Some early still pictures on WCBD-TV’s website.
UPDATE: At 11:00 p.m. a reporter at WCSC-TV said, “as many as 6 firefighters” have been killed in this fire. There is video and more details here. Witness claims to have heard firefighters last words on radio.
UPATE: At 11:46 p.m. WCSC-TV’s website claims “as many as 7 firefighters” missing following a collapse of the furniture store.
Charleston, South Carolina Mayor Joseph Riley has scheduled a news conference at 5:00 PM to announce his choice to replace Tom Carr as chief of the Charleston Fire Department. News reports have identified Riley’s pick as Karen Brack, Eugene Fire Department (OR) deputy chief of operations.
Charleston Fire Chief Tom Carr told his firefighters yesterday that illness will force him to step down from his post on March 1 of next year. Chief Carr took over the department in November, 2008 after retiring as chief of Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service in Maryland. He has helped the Charleston Fire Department recover after the staggering loss of nine firefighters at the Sofa Super Store fire of June 18, 2007.
Andy Paras and Glenn Smith, writing in The Post and Courier, say that Carr "transformed a struggling department into a modern firefighting force."
A visit early this year found Chief Carr with his usual sharp mind and a strong determination to continue to lead despite the toll the disease was taking on his body. Equally impressive was the amazing support the chief continued to receive from Charleston firefighters who have stood by him in this battle.
Carr, 57, briefed city firefighters on his decision during a morning assembly at the Charleston Maritime Center. He then released a statement explaining that his medical problems had taken a turn for the worse.
Carr said his neurologist recently found that he has a more serious condition known as multiple systems atrophy, which is among the more severe syndromes of Parkinson's. The condition progresses more rapidly and doesn't respond well to medication, he said.
Mayor Joe Riley has announced he will conduct a nationwide search for a new chief.
My most recent visit to the neurologist brought good and bad news that I need to share with you. Physically, my doctor said I looked better than I did 6 months earlier but he had life changing news.
As we've discussed previously, Parkinson's is difficult to diagnose and as it has been in my case. My initial diagnosis was tennis elbow and it wasn't until later that I was diagnosed with slow developing Parkinson's.
Parkinsonism is a group of neurological disorders or syndromes. Parkinson's is the most common and slowest developing. 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.
As a result of this change in my diagnosis and prognosis, I will be retiring on March 1, 2012. For the next six months we will continue to focus on moving the Department forward as a search for my replacement is conducted.
One burned in San Francisco apartment fire: A neighbor’s roof top video of a fire during the noon hour in Haight Ashbury on Monday that injured an occupant of a second-floor apartment.
The STATter911.com family heads to Chicago: I guess it is appropriate that the video above is from San Francisco because that is where our journey began on August 6. Currently Sam, Hillary and Dave are in Dubuque, Iowa, heading out today for four days at Fire Rescue International in Chicago. Along the way we saw some spectacular sights and had many wonderful moments. In the coming weeks I plan to share some fire related photos and videos that I gathered during our journey, like the one on the left when San Francisco Fire Engine Tours & Adventures took us on a tour of the city in a 1955 Mack pumper. Because of the travel, as we warned, the blog postings have been reduced. Thank you for your patience and understanding. I don’t expect to get back into my usual unreliable pattern of posting until next week.
One you should attend in Chicago: If you manage a behavioral health program for a fire department or are a chief officer, peer program manager or EAP professional make sure you get to “Focus Group on New Protocol for Firefighter Behavioral Health – Initiative 13″. Its on Friday from 12:30 to 2:30 in room N230a at McCormick Place. If you need more information contact Dr. JoEllen Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New fire chief in Houston: The Houston Chronicle and other new outlets are reporting Terry Garrison will be the new chief of the Houston Fire Department. Retired after a 30-year-career in Phoenix, Chief Garrison more recently has been doing the chief thing in Oceanside, California and the Daisy Mountain Fire District in New River, Arizona. Read more.
Triple fatal fire in the Charleston, SC area: Around 9:00 last night a mother and her young twin boys died in a fire in West Ashley, a Charleston suburb. The St. Andrews Fire Department and Charleston Fire Department responded. SConFire.com is on top of the story.
Honors for Tom Carr: As many of you already know from other sources while Dave was distracted by his intimate relationship with the GPS lady, our friend Tom Carr, chief of the Charleston Fire Department (mentioned above), has been named by Fire Chief as the 2010 Career Fire Chief of the Year. A much deserved honor for a man I first met when he was a lieutenant in Montgomery County, Maryland. While we are at it, congratulations to Timothy S. Wall of the North Farms Volunteer Fire Department in North Wallingford, Connecticut who is the 2010 Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year.
Iron and Steel doesn’t make it to Washington but will come close: This weekend steel from the World Trade Center will be escorted to the Pentagon. You may recall the dispute that surfaced in June after the organizers and the DC Fire & EMS Department did not come to terms for this event (click here). The Arlington County Fire Department, under the leadership of Chief Jim Schwartz, stepped in and will host the event. Click here for the weekend schedule.
A much better view of the CNG bus burning in Maryland: We have now posted almost seven minutes of continuous raw video from Friday’s Metrobus fire in Anne Arundel County. It begins just before the first engine pulls up. Despite offering a better representation of what was there when firefighters arrived, I am not sure it is going to change too many minds in our comments section. What could have been an interesting discussion over the use of master streams in this type of situation has turned into the type of Internet free-for-all that can cause brain damage ( if taken too seriously). I just want to apologize ahead of time in case you stumble upon it. Much more interesting is the updated video.
Chief fired over disposal of stillborn babies: We have reported on fire chiefs being fired for many, many reasons, but this is one we have never heard before. WBRC-TV is reporting that in Odenville, Alabama Chief David Davis claimed he was just following protocol when he flushed twin stillborn babies down the toilet. Mayor Buck Christian fired Davis and the Odenville City Council unanimously approved that decision.
But it’s the news media’s fault in Detroit: Thank goodness for the Geezerman. At least Firegeezer Bill doesn’t leave his readers high and dry while he goes gallivanting across the country. Clearly a man with a much better work ethic than I have, Bill Schumm has been posting some great stories at Firegeezer.com. The most disturbing one comes from Detroit. On August 9 I shared the story about Mayor Dave Bing’s administration’s issues with media ride-alongs and attempts to create a new policy. You may recall in the same posting I also disagreed with a documentary producer’s opinion that the news media is the problem in Detroit (at the same time supporting the producer’s efforts to show us the firefighters of Detroit). Well, the nasty news media is at it again. This time they have the nerve to tell people that 31 of 45 ambulances are broken. A TV station shows some people, like the recently injured Detroit firefighters, who didn’t get to the hospital by ambulance. Here’s Bill’s well written look at this tragedy.
Fire in Utica, New York: One person is unaccounted for following an apartment building fire Friday night on Blandina Street. What was left of the building was demolished on Saturday morning. Click here for more.
One amazing older flashover video that you must see: If you have never seen the video from Spain where light smoke at an apartment building suddenly turns to flames throughout the structure, trapping two firefighters in the process, you will want to check it out. You won’t need subtitles for this foreign film. There is a lot going on in this video, including a couple of citizens who grab a ladder to help the firefighters. It is one compelling video. Click here.
Well it’s not as if my name showed up on the Mayflower Madam’s list: But I did make the Sunday paper in Charleston, South Carolina for being on another list. The Routley diaries have been released. More than two-thousand emails from the team that investigated the Sofa Super Store fire were obtained by reporter Glenn Smith after the Post & Courier filed a FOIA request. Since one of the emails discussed in the article was from or to me, I will refrain, for the moment, on giving you my assessment of this interesting situation that has developed. Click here and you can first digest this stuff yourself without influence from a clearly biased participant like me. But I will say that Glenn’s judgment is questionable if he thinks this rag is “influential”.
Newspaper looks at the issue of race in the Boston Fire Department: A study by Boston.com contends that many firehouse are “starkly and increasingly segragated”. Check here for the story.
FDNY staffing reduction: The union says the city has the formula wrong, but New York officials are ready to reduce the staffing at 60 engine companies from five to four. They are allowed to do so when the use of medical leave goes above 7.5%. Firefighter Close Calls has that story.
Big fire & big problem in British Columbia: Toxic runoff from a large fire Friday night in Kelowna has a creek and some back yards shut down. We have details and lots of video.
Also in B.C.: Just west of Kelowna a firefighting tanker aircraft crashed while fighting a wildland fire in Fraser Canyon. The crew of two is dead and the crash sparked another fire. Firegeezer has the story.
Funerals: This weekend I talked to some friends who went north and others who went south to attend the funerals of four firefighters killed last week. Click here and here to view coverage of the funerals of Lt. Steven Velasquez and Firefighter Michael Baik in Bridgeport Connecticut.
In Rocky Mount, Virginia Rhett Fleitz and his VAFireNews continues to lead the coverage of the deaths of Chief Posey Dillon and Firefighter Danny Altice. Here’s the main page. You can see the pictures Rhett and Drew Abel took here and here.
Four children rescued in the other Charleston: In West Virginia, news reports indicate one firefighter found three children and another found the fourth during a house fire early Sunday morning. Read the story.
Post lay-off proposal by union in San Jose: In an effort to get the jobs back for dozens of firefighters let go in recent days, the union in San Jose has offered new concessions to the city. This article indicates it may not be enough.
We told you about Wednesday’s mayday in Charleston, South Carolina when we posted some early video from the fire. This video shows some of what happened when part of the second floor collapsed later in the operation. Two firefighters were slightly hurt and a third suffered from heat exhaustion.
On Thursday a number of STATter911.com readers alerted me to the close call in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I was traveling on business and just didn’t get to post it. Today Firegeezer Bill Schumm found the pictures showing the double slide after an explosion (described initially as a backdraft) during a townhouse fire. Click here for more pictures and details from the Geezer.
Virginia USAR dog is injured and dies during training: The news just came out yesterday about an incident Friday during training of Virginia Task Force 2. A search dog known as Win received a puncture wound while looking for a “live” victim. Win died later in the day. Here’s the sad story.
Fire Station One just opened in Silver Spring, Maryland. It is the old firehouse at 8131 Georgia Avenue (the new one is across the street). The restaurant held a fundraiser last night for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). Click the image to read more about the eatery & brewery that is the dream of Jeremy Gruber, a retired Montgomery County Firefighter/Paramedic. Full disclosure- In his "retirement" Dave is doing work for NFFF. More on that later.
Fire & explosion cuts power for thousands: Lights flickered all over Denver Monday evening. We have news coverage and home video from the electrical substation explosion and fire. Click here.
Dramatic rescue video: A TV news crew was rolling when citizens and a rescue team got a man out of an SUV in the Nisqually River in Mt. Rainier National Park. Watch the rescue.
Florida firefighter isn’t good around lightning, or is he?: We mentioned this yesterday, but you can now listen to the story of Mike Brasol a Volusia County firefighter who for the second time in his life had a close call with lightning. Watch the story.
Demotion after claiming female firefighters are ”OTWOS”: That stands for “oxygen-thieving wastes of space” and it is why a part time station officer in Whyalla, Australia was demoted. George Dunbar lost his appeal. Here is an excerpt from WhyallaNewsOnline-
He was also reported to have referred to women as “cannon fodder”, made remarks about the size of their bottoms and allegedly stated that they should “self-explode at a certain age”.
Flying hydrant: In Meyersdale, Pennsylvania the message came over the radio during a house fire yesterday, “I lost the hydrant, she blew boys”. It was one of two holes in the ground from a main near the fire on High Street. No one was injured from the airborne hydrant. Click here to read the story.
No hydrants, flying or otherwise: Firegeezer Bill Schumm takes a look at the water-supply problems in Booneville, Iowa during a fire Sunday night. Read Bill’s story and watch the video.
And it continues: The Boston Globe is urging the City Council to hang tough against firefighters and vote against anything that has the city paying for the right to do random drug testing. Click here for the editorial. The impasse continues in this four year journey for a contract. Here’s the latest.
From Charleston, South Carolina, some difficult news from someone we know well. Charleston Fire Department Chief Tom Carr, who previously headed Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service in Maryland, announced today he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Our best wishes are with the chief. Chief Carr passed along to our readers this message that he sent to his staff:
As you may know I am a strong advocate of the organization supporting fire fighter health. In order to establish confidence in the medical support system, fire fighters must have total confidence that their personal medical situation is confidential. I do not take the decision to share my medical information with you lightly. But I feel it’s important that I share some personal health information with you.
Chief Tom Carr from Post & Courier website.
I have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Parkinson is not fatal, but currently it is a non-curable, degenerative, and a debilitating disease. It generally doesn’t affect critical thinking and normally advances slowly.You may know this as the disease that Michael J. Fox, Pope John Paul, Janet Reno and Mohamed Ali have. It is difficult to diagnose because there aren’t specific tests for Parkinson’s and each person is affected differently.
Currently my symptoms are a soft, raspy voice, some balance issues, some tremors in my hands and face, and a lack of facial expression. Symptoms are controlled to some degree by medication although there can be fluctuations during the day. My soft voice is the most frustrating. In the past I had a strong voice and rarely used a microphone.
But I still wake up every morning ready to get at the days activities. As the chief executive officer of the Charleston Fire Department, my responsibility is not fighting fires but fighting, cheerleading, and facilitating for you folks on the street.
My career plan is to continue to implement our CFD vision. We have made a great deal of progress but there is plenty left to do. We have established a great leadership team which is very effective.
I also want to help other fire fighters understand Parkinson’s, its risk and how your environmental exposure as a fire fighter increases your risk of having PD. There is a study that states in the general population the probability of PD occurring is 3-4 out of 1,000 and for a fire fighter the risk increases to 30 per 1,000. It is thought that people develop PD either genetically or environmentally or a combination of both factors. I went though genetic testing to determine if my children were at risk. I do not have the genetic markers for PD. Given the genetic test results, I most likely developed PD as a result of environmental exposure, such as, chemicals released from normal room and contents fires as well as exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. We need to assure our fire fighters have the information they need to understand the risk and reduce exposure.
I have talked at length to my doctor at MUSC and have been evaluated at the Mayo Clinic. They believe, and I know, that I am able to continue fire chief executive duties. I don’t take this lightly, my responsibly is to support you. I take this commitment seriously and would do nothing to compromise you or the CFD. I plan to continue working for you as long as I am able. My doctors say that 5-10 years is a reasonable expectation.
I am totally committed to you and the CFD. In fact you are the CFD and many of you have experienced devastating impacts on your family and on yourselves personally.
My initial diagnosis of PD felt devastating on my life but the opportunity it presents can’t be overlooked. I am committed to getting the word out about PD and the possible links to fire fighting.
Have no doubt that I will continue to lead the CFD on its current path.