Karen Kane named Rock Hill’s fire officer of the year

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJanuary 25, 2014 

Rock Hill named Adam Aguirre firefighter of the year and Capt. Karen Kane the fire department’s officer of the year.

JONATHAN MCFADDEN — jmcfadden@heraldonline.com

  • Aguirre named firefighter of the year

    Adam Aguirre was named Rock Hill’s firefighter of the year on Friday.

    “It’s really a brotherhood and a family,” he said of the Rock Hill Fire Department. Awards and commendations are nice, he said, but “we don’t do it for that.”

    Aguirre started with the department in 2010, serving on the city’s “The No. 1 Question: Is It Good For the Children?” committee. He is trained to respond to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction.

    He also developed the department’s “First 365” program, a mentoring program for new firefighters. He was instrumental in the department’s adoption of new software that collects patient information.

    A member of the Rock Hill Honor Guard already awarded a citation for his response to a medical call last year, the newly wed Aguirre gave credit to his wife, Jessica, for understanding the sometimes long hours that can be “hard on a wife, hard on a marriage.”

    “He really has a true heart of compassion,” Fire Chief Mike Blackmon said. “He is really dedicated to the people he serves. He’ll volunteer for anything.” Jonathan McFadden

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

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