There are a lot of fine public servants out there who spend their days making the Lowcountry a better place to live.

Unfortunately, we are losing one of the best of them.

Earlier this week, Charleston Fire Chief Thomas Carr announced that he will step down in March to turn his attention to fighting a terribly debilitating strain of Parkinson's disease. It is a shame, and Carr and his family deserve not only good wishes but also a great deal of thanks.

He has made a difference here.

Carr was the right man to take the reins of the Fire Department in 2008, and he has made considerable improvements in the past three years -- not just in the city but across the entire metropolitan area.

He has solidified relationships between local fire departments to the point that they now routinely respond to each other's calls. Carr has upgraded equipment and training for Charleston's own firefighters, and brought a new level of harmony to the ranks of the city's finest.

Carr was just what Charleston needed in trying times, and when he steps down in six months, he will be missed more than many people will ever realize.

Exceeding expectations

In 2008, the Charleston Fire Department was devastated.

The year before, the department lost nine good men in one of the most horrible accidents in this city's history -- the Sofa Super Store fire. In the aftermath, published reports were critical of the department's policies and techniques, its outdated equipment and training. A lot of firefighters were demoralized, the department in upheaval.

Carr came in with a resume that would make any city envious: He had made significant improvements in a Maryland fire district 10 times the size of Charleston, and built an urban search-and-rescue program that became a national model. He did all this while working his way through the ranks from paramedic and firefighter to chief. Carr had quite a reputation to live up to, but somehow he managed to exceed expectations.

T.J. Brennan joined the department at the same time as Carr, and he told his mother "I felt like I was in the Ivy League of fire departments."

And he had, in no small part thanks to Carr.

Highest honors

If it's possible, Carr has become even more of a leader to his troops since this illness took hold.

"Every time I had a headache or was sick to my stomach and didn't feel like working, I thought about the chief climbing those stairs to his office every day," Brennan says. "He was an inspiration."

Carr is a fighter, and even today he is spending the majority of his time trying to make the Fire Department a better organization. Last year, Carr was named Career Fire Chief of the Year by Fire Chief magazine. But Brennan, president of the Charleston firefighters union, offers an even higher honor:

"He is a fireman's fireman, and a chief's chief."

Thomas Carr is not only a great firefighter, he is a great man. And everyone in Charleston should be grateful for all that he's done.

Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.