Former Fire Chief Thomas Carr, who began his public safety career as an 18-year-old volunteer paramedic with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, died on Wednesday following complications from a rare neurological disorder.
Carr left Montgomery County in 2008 to take over as Chief of the Charleston [South Carolina] Fire Department. Charleston was Carr’s hometown and the Fire Department there was reeling from a 2007 furniture store fire that left nine of its fire fighters dead.
In April 2010, Carr announced his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Carr had an aggressive neurological disorder called Multiple System Atrophy that causes symptoms similar to Parkinson’s. He was 59.
Shortly after his announcement, Carr won Fire Chief Magazine’s 2010 Career Chief of the Year award for the improvements and leadership he brought to Charleston’s Department.
In a press release on Thursday, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Assistant Chief and spokesperson Scott Graham said Carr began his fire department career in Bethesda in 1973. He was hired as a career firefighter/paramedic in 1977 and rose through the ranks to become Montgomery’s first operational fire chief in 2004, after the County Council passed legislation to reshape MCFRS.
“The fire service has lost a great leader and we’ve lost a great friend,” Fire Chief Richard Bowers said in the release. Bowers followed Carr as fire chief. “Chief Carr was respected nationally and internationally. Under his leadership, the department added four-person staffing, collective bargaining for volunteers and raised education and training standards. He led the department’s successful efforts to become a nationally accredited fire department and was a man of great vision, passion and integrity who led from the heart. His impact will be felt for many years to come.”
Carr is survived by his wife Anne, son West, daughter Amy, his parents, brother and sister.