Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. today announced the names of four finalists to become Charleston’s next fire chief.

These four candidates, narrowed down from 61 applicants for the position, will visit the city on April 30 as part of the selection process. Part of their visit will include an orientation and a tour of the city and its neighborhoods. They will also have an opportunity to meet with members of the Fire Department and tour some of the stations.

The candidates are: Paul J. Berardi, deputy fire chief of the Kansas City (MO) Fire Department. He has 26 years of experience in the fire service including 12 years as deputy chief.

Karen E. Brack, deputy chief of the Eugene (Ore.) Fire Department. She has 29 years of experience in the fire service including the last four years as deputy chief.

Richard Brannon, deputy chief of Mobile (Ala.) Fire-Rescue. He has 33 years of experience in fire service including the last six years as deputy chief.

Edwin W. Smith, fire chief for Henrico County, Va. He has 35 years of experience in the fire service, including four years as chief.

“We will have before us a group of very talented and qualified candidates for the vitally important role of fire chief,” Riley said. “I look forward to the interview process and to enable the candidates to get acquainted with our outstanding community. I take this process very seriously, as the selection of a fire chief is probably one of the most important duties of a mayor. I know my decision will be a difficult one.“

The city conducted a nationwide search to replace former Fire Chief Thomas Carr, who retired in March due to complications from his ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease. Frank Finley has been serving as the 319-member department’s interim chief until a permanent replacement can be found.

Carr, 57, became fire chief in November 2008, taking the reins of a department still grieving and rebuilding from the Sofa Super Store blaze that killed nine city firefighters the year before. He is widely credited with adopting modern techniques and standards, as well as charting a more coordinated, regional approach to firefighting.

He was named Career Fire Chief of the Year by the International Association of Fire Chiefs in 2010.

Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or