Boston Fire Commissioner Joe Finn announces retirement plans. ‘I am retiring March 12.’

Jim Davis/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn is retiring after 36 years as a member of the Boston Fire Department, ending a career that saw him hold every rank including the last five years as its leader.

"Having risen through the ranks, it’s been a rewarding career though challenging at times,'' Finn wrote on his official Twitter account early Monday. "Now it is time to be with my family more but continuing on a part time basis in the fire service as I weigh several opportunities.'

Finn discussed his decision with Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen prior to his social media posting.


Cullen detailed how Finn in 2008 forgave the elderly driver who killed his sister, Marie Conley, while she worked as a school crossing guard outside the Mather School in 2010. Conley was fatally struck as she pushed a 10-year-old child to safety.

Finn, 59, was named to the top job by Mayor Martin J. Walsh during his first term. Finn repaired a shredded relationship between City Hall and the powerful firefighters union, Local 718, which had been in a long-running feud with Walsh’s predecessor, the late Thomas Menino.

"After 35+ yrs, the last 5 1/2 as Commissioner/Chief of Dept., I am retiring March 12th,'' Finn tweeted. “It’s been my honor to lead & work with the dedicated uniform & civilian staff of the BFD. Tremendous support from Mayor @Marty_Walsh.”

With the support of Walsh, Finn also instilled in the department’s procedures and long-term planning what he hopes to be lasting attention to the issue of firefighters dying from cancers they develop because of their exposures to toxic chemicals at fire scenes.

He was also the on-scene commander in March of 2014, when workers using a blowtorch on a windy day started a Beacon Hill townhouse fire, a blaze that eventually trapped and killed Boston Fire Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy.


Finn ordered fellow firefighters to halt their rescue efforts, knowing that the lives of other firefighters would be endangered if they continued.

In a statement Monday morning, Walsh thanked Finn for his years as a firefighter and the department’s leader. He also said he expected to name Finn’s successor in the “coming days.”

"Under his stewardship, the Boston Fire Department has put a renewed focus on health and wellness to reduce the cancer rate among its members and has ushered in a new era at the fire department with historic investments in firehouses, apparatus, training and equipment,'' Walsh said in the statement. "His steadfast commitment to the men and women of the fire department never wavered, and for that, the City of Boston is grateful. "

Historically, the commissioner is drawn from within the ranks of the department, although Menino twice broke with that tradition.

John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.