CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston Fire Chief Karen Brack announced plans to step down in a letter addressed to fire department personnel Friday morning.
"It has been a great honor to serve this department and this community," Brack said, according to a news release issued soon after. "I have seen remarkable commitment in this organization and I could not be prouder of what we have accomplished... From the depth of my heart I thank you for the privilege of serving with you."
Brack's last day will be April 7.
Chaplain Rob Dewey has worked in the field with city fire fighters and first responders for nearly thirty years. Dewey said Brack's departure was unexpected.
"This was a surprise to me because I thought everything was very calm at the department and I thought she'd stay another ten years," Dewey said.
"Chief Brack came in at a very difficult time for the fire department," Dewey said, "since the Sofa Superstore in 2007, this department had the world looking at it."
CIty Council member Kathleen Wilson and Chair for the Public Safety Committee said she was "quite surprised" to hear news of Brack's resignation. Wilson said she couldn't yet confirm the plans to search for a new chief or who would serve in the interim but wished Brack the best.
Hired in 2012 after a nationwide search, Chief Brack brought more than 30 years of experience in the fire industry to the city. That year, former mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. said a group of 61 applicants was narrowed down to four candidates, with Brack being the only female.
The City of Charleston Fire Department became one of only 22 fire departments in the United States to earn both an ISO Class I rating and accreditation by the Center for Public Safety Excellence, according to the city.
Chief Brack also helped to develop the mutual aid agreement with neighboring fire departments, which ensures that Charleston citizens receive the fastest, most effective response from the nearest available first-responders in any emergency situation.
The department's website indicates firefighters responded to more than 23,000 calls in 2016, 699 of which were fires.
"Chief Brack has been instrumental in the outstanding achievements of the Charleston Fire Department over the past five years, expanding the department's commitment to fire-response best practices and techniques, and personifying its mission to protect the lives and property of our citizens," Charleston Mayor John. J. Tecklenburg said. "Her outstanding leadership will be greatly missed and, on behalf of all our citizens, I sincerely thank her for her exemplary service to our city."
"A change in the fire chief, or agency head, of an accredited department has no effect on that agency's accredited status," Preet Bassi, CEO with the Center for Public Safety Excellence, said Friday. "The Center for Public Safety Excellence, under which CFAI operates, treats such changes as an administrative update to the agency's record."