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Another “Chip” off the old RINO Block
Lee Walton

From all indications, Representative Chip Limehouse has joined the increasing ranks of South Carolina “RINOS” (Republicans In Name Only) and outed himself by siding with other local, liberal-leaning bleeding hearts who have jumped on the bandwagon, or more precisely, fire truck, in a series of recent attempts to defend Charleston’s former Fire Chief Rusty Thomas.

Limehouse’s March 19th Palter and Chatter commentary, “Enough already on fire probes”, was laced with rationalizations and not-so-factual attempts to divert attention from one of Charleston’s most egregious failures of public leadership in over a century that resulted in the unnecessary loss of nine firefighters almost three years ago. For one whose family is heavily dependant upon tourism and the hospitality industry in Peninsula Charleston, Representative Limehouse’s defense of Charleston’s former fire chief came off as self-serving and disingenuous to core conservative values that demand professionalism, personal responsibility and accountability of elected officials and senior public servants. Limehouse may have higher political aspirations but, as US Senator Lindsey Graham has recently discovered, saying you’re a conservative Republican while straying toward the left contrary to core Party principles is disturbing to Party supporters, emboldens challengers, and weakens personal political credibility.

Limehouse’s assertion as to the “primary fact determined in many investigations…” were building use and code violations totally ignores the consensus of investigations and preponderance of findings that “cited command failures as a predominate factor in the Fire Department’s unstructured and uncoordinated response to the blaze, which exposed firefighters to excessive and avoidable risks.” The Savannah Highway Sofa Super Store was known to be a “death-trap” to several members of the CFD. It had no sprinklers, was a hodge-podge of questionable additions, and, most tragically, had a highly vulnerable mild-steel bar-joist roof system. The command decisions that sent nine men to their deaths with no accountability, unknown air supplies, and glorified garden hoses can not be rationalized away. Failures in leadership, training and command control were the primary causes of these unnecessary deaths. These failures were indefensible and rooted in reckless professional incompetence.

Limehouse’s assertions that “alleged failure to properly train and supervise…” and “Can’t it always be said that better training or supervision could have been accomplished…” are totally counter to the findings of the comprehensive Ratley Report and smack of self-serving political sops to the Riley Administration.

For decades Mayor Riley has assured the citizens of Charleston and City Council repeatedly that his Fire Chief and the CDF were the best equipped and best led fire department in the nation. Below are but a few direct quotes form Riley’s “State of the City” and “Inaugural” addresses over the past twelve years:

1998 – “Chief Rusty Thomas and the men and women of our Fire Department continue to excel in their courage and efficiency in dealing with the challenges of fire safety.”

1999 – “I could not be prouder of them, or more amazed at their extraordernary ability, skill and courage. They are truly America’s best.”

2000 – “…our Fire Department is only 1 of 26 out of 88,000 fire departments in America with a top Class 1 Fire Rating. In my opinion, of the 88,000 we are the best.”

2001 – “We are fortunate to have the best Police Chief and the best Fire Chief in America…”

2002 – “Chief Rusty Thomas is not only the best fire chief in America, but a community leader as well.”

2004 – “Our Fire Department led by Chief Thomas is the best at what they do in America as well.”

2004 – “They are the best in America and in fact only 30 other cities in our country have the number one designation that our Fire Department enjoys. We continue to provide them with the best, most up-to-date equipment…”

2005 – “Under the leadership of Chief Rusty Thomas our Fire Department continues to enjoy its national reputation as one of only 44 in the United States of America that enjoyed the Class No. One rating. No chief or department in America exceeds them in courage and skill. They are the best.”

2006 – “Our Fire Department continues to excel. Rusty Thomas, now in his 14th year leading our Fire Department, is a model public servant…Chief Thomas makes us proud…”

2007 – “The first responsibility of government is public safety…Chief Rusty Thomas continues his splendid leadership of our Fire Department, one of the very best in America.”

Representative Limehouse may have felt compelled to defend Charleston’s former fire chief and the City’s handling of the investigations following the tragic loss of nine CFD firefighters, but in doing so, he has also brought renewed focus and voter scrutiny upon his own motives and credibility.

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