Capt. Karen Kane’s transition from a police officer who interrogates drug dealers to a fire inspector who interrogates arsonists was pretty seamless.
She still works with the public, still files reports, still conducts investigations and still files charges.
When she investigates a fire, Kane said, she puts herself in the victim’s shoes, which motivates her to uncover every possible detail about how and why a fire started.
“If I had a fire loss, I would want to know what happened,” she said.
In 2013, she and her team investigated 53 fires.
“She’s just got a knack for trying to investigate and pull out the facts,” said Rock Hill Fire Chief Mike Blackmon. Kane “won’t stop until she really knows and feels comfortable” with the results.
On Friday, Kane – the Rock Hill Fire Department’s first female captain – became its first female officer of the year, as well.
“It came as a complete surprise,” she said. “I’m honored to represent the Rock Hill Fire Department.”
Being the first female captain isn’t something Kane thinks about often, she said. Neither does Blackmon.
“We don’t play up that she’s the first female,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a female, doesn’t matter what race you are. If you’re short or tall, you can excel.”
Kane’s attention to detail makes the findings in her investigations trustworthy and accurate, Blackmon said.
“Sometimes, you can look too hard, and it will guide you to what you think is the cause and origin” of a fire, Blackmon said. “You have to go in with an open mind. Karen does that. She’s well-trained.”
Investigating fires is not a “glamorous job,” Kane said. Inspectors crawl and dig through rubble, ash and soot to uncover burn patterns and photograph burned debris in their attempts to “put the pieces of the puzzle together,” she said. They also interview witnesses and interrogate suspects.
Kane has been a fire inspector for seven years, following years as a patrol officer with the Rock Hill Police Department.
She was one of several firefighters who received honors and commendations for their work in 2013. Citations were handed out to crew members who displayed exemplary service when responding to medical and fire calls, 10 promotions were announced, and three firefighters learned they would become captains.
In 2013, Rock Hill firefighters took 7,000 calls for help, battled 62 structure fires and saved 82 percent of property affected by flames. The department hired six new officers and expects seven more to start this week.
“We are very blessed to have you all in our department,” Blackmon said.
Jonathan McFadden • 803-329-4082