Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, who took over the job just months after the Sept. 11 attacks, is leaving the department at the end of the year to pursue teaching opportunities.
He said in a letter to staff Thursday that he took the post because he wanted to help the city recover from the tragedy that killed 343 firefighters. He said the biggest challenge of his job was to rebuild the ranks while preparing to respond to another attack.
Before that he had been an attorney and even a professor of law at NYU, and in the 70s was the commissioner of the city's Department of Investigation.
Scoppetta met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg in August and told him he was leaving the FDNY regardless of the outcome of November's election.
In his resignation letter to FDNY staff, Scoppetta praised the progress the department has made.
"Fire deaths in the last eight years are the lowest on record," he wrote. "Our fire and EMS response times are the fastest on record. Last year, we had the fewest fires in the city in nearly 50 years. New Yorkers have never been better protected and served than under the past eight years of this administration."
The mayor heaped praise on his commissioner as he prepared to depart.
"The Department’s performance under Scoppetta’s leadership has been remarkable... The FDNY has never been better trained and prepared to handle any emergency, including terrorism," said Bloomberg in a statement.
"As he embarks on plans to teach and write, I thank him and wish him well."