Thomas West Carr, Jr, age 54, has been named Fire Chief, City of Charleston (SC) Department. Chief Tom Carr, who has over 32 years of fire and rescue experience and began his public safety career in Montgomery County in 1978 as a paramedic/fire fighter and has risen through the ranks to become Montgomery County’s first Fire Chief. He had previously volunteered for several years at a local rescue squad prior to his employment. He has served as the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) as Fire Chief since January 2005. He is expected to retire from Montgomery County in the near future.
In May 2003 he was appointed by then Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan as Chief for the Division of Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS), the highest ranking career chief fire officer. A year later, in 2004, the County Council passed new legislation reshaping the County’s fire and rescue service. After a nationwide search, Tom Carr was selected by then County Executive Doug Duncan as the ‘first ever’ County Fire Chief. He was unanimously confirmed by the County Council in October 2004. He was reappointed as Montgomery County Fire Chief by County Executive Isiah Leggett in 2006 and again unanimously confirmed by the Montgomery County Council as the County Fire Chief.
Under the direction of Chief Carr, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has grown into one of the nation’s largest combination (career/volunteer) fire service agencies in the Country operating with a budget of over $195 million and over 2,000 personnel. He has advocated firefighter safety and wellness and the MCFRS has achieved increased staffing levels improving firefighter safety and increased operational effectiveness. During his tenure, there has been enhanced staffing for fire inspectors and code enforcement allowing for improved efficiency of building inspections.
A high priority has also been given to career and volunteer recruitment in order to not only meet the demands of one of the largest County agencies, support the staffing initiatives and at the same time place an emphasis on diversity in order to better reflect the communities we serve. The Montgomery County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association and Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were involved in a Direct Negotiations ‘contract’ or labor agreement for volunteers, the first of it’s kind in the nation. The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is also the only fire department in the U.S to directly support and maintain a Mobile Volunteer Corp, a group of emergency and non-emergency personnel directly supporting the county and local volunteer fire and rescue departments.
In 2007 the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service attained the distinguished Accreditation status through the Commission Fire Accreditation International (CFAI), which falls under the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE). The MCFRS is one of only 122 departments in the US and the largest combination, career and volunteer department in the nation to be accredited. In addition the National Fallen Fire Fighters Foundation recognized the MCFRS for implementing all of NFFF 16 life-safety initiatives, only one of a few and one of the largest departments to do so, by presenting the NFFF Seal of Excellence.
In conjunction with The International Association of Fire Chiefs, Montgomery County was the recipient of the national Heart Safe Community award, signifying that the resources are in place throughout the County that support the American heart Association’s ‘chain-of-survival’. Part of the reason for the award was also being that Montgomery County has the most automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) of any jurisdiction in the Washington region and the State of Maryland. Your chances of surviving are greater in Montgomery County.
In order to address an unusual trend of older adult residential fire fatalities, by Executive Order, a Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force was developed and a one-year report containing over 30 recommendations to improve life-safety and the quality of life for the County’s senior citizens, was presented to the Fire Chief and County Executive. A leader in the nation, the County also added an additional Child Passenger Safety Seat Inspection station – in conjunction with several local car dealers and local businesses. Montgomery County annually checks about 10,000 child safety seats – the most of any jurisdiction in US.
Furthermore, under Chief Carr’s guidance, the MCFRS has contracted to procure seventy (70) front-line vehicles, including 37 engines, 9 ladder trucks, 3 heavy rescues squads, 2 hazmat units and 20 EMS ambulances, to carry out the all hazard mission of the department into the future. Within the next year or so every first due engine-company will be operating with a full featured, precisely equipped unit with the latest technologies available to assure the safety of the crew cab occupants while entering, exiting, and riding in the vehicles. The contract for identical Compressed Air Foam (CAFS) pumper style fire engines alone is worth a total value of over $11.2 million dollars. The MCFRS has also broken ground on several new fire and rescue stations with others in the final planning stages.
In August 2008, Chief Carr was presented with the International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) President’s Recognition Award during the annual Conference in Denver, CO. for his commitment to firefighter safety and support of the National Firefighter Near-Miss reporting system.
Prior to being appointed as the County’s first Fire Chief, Carr served as the Chief for the Division of Fire and Rescue Services from 2003 to 2005. Carr also served as the Assistant Chief of Operations and Special Projects and concurrently served as a commissioner on the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Commission for five (5) years.
Carr’s service also includes three years as District Chief, Human Resources and Labor Relations Officer overseeing, among other things the DFRS recruitment efforts, as well as the fitness and wellness initiatives. As a station commander he directed the implementation of the County’s nationally recognized Collapse Rescue Team and served as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) Task Force Leader for the Maryland Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Team. As a US&R team leader Chief Carr responded to disasters in Oklahoma City and the Pentagon, as well as numerous U.S. hurricanes, including Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In 1989, Carr was selected to lead a small U.S delegation of rescuers to Soviet Armenia to evaluate the readiness of the United States for such catastrophes. As a result of this trip the national urban search and rescue task force was formed.
Chief Carr has a Master of Science degree in Human Resources Management from the University of Maryland. He is also a graduate of the George Washington University (DC) Certified Public Manager Program. He has a Bachelors of Arts degree from National University (CA). He currently serves on the Board for the Greater Colesville Citizens’ Association and is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). Chief Carr and his wife Anne of over 25 years are longtime County residents and currently live in Colesville with their two teenage children.
In May 2004 the Montgomery County Council approved legislation to create a more unified command and control structure for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. The legislation established for the first time the position of a uniformed County Fire Chief who has the authority to administer, direct and originate fire and rescue operations for the entire Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, career and volunteer.
Other provisions of the new legislation included elimination of the previous position of Fire Administrator, the seven-member Fire and Rescue Commission will be retained as a quasi-judicial review board to assist the new chief; and the Chief of the Division of Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services was enhanced and redefined with a clear role in the administration, recruitment, retention and promotion of volunteer personnel and facilities.
The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is a full spectrum life safety agency protecting nearly 1 million people who live and work in Maryland’s most populous jurisdiction. The MCFRS is a combination system (career/volunteer), operating with a budget of about $195 million, comprised of over 1200 career uniformed personnel and professional civilian staff and an equal number of volunteers, nearly half of whom actively participate in emergency response. There are forty fire and rescue facilities, including a 56 acre training academy, state-of-the-art communication facility, as well as thirty-five community fire and rescue stations strategically located throughout Montgomery County’s 500 square miles in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.