The Chief of Department, appointed by the Fire Commissioner, is the highest ranking uniformed member of the Department, overseeing 15,000 uniformed Firefighters and EMS personnel. The current and 35th Chief of Department is James E. Leonard. Chief Leonard was appointed by Commissioner Nigro in 2014.
Chief Leonard's career with the Department began as a Firefighter with Engine 310 in Brooklyn in 1979. In 1986, he became a Fire Marshal and was assigned to the "Red Cap" street patrol in Brooklyn, which was created to fight the arson blight that had plagued parts of the City at that time. In 1987, he returned to firefighting, serving on Staten Island with Ladder 85. He returned to Brooklyn when he was promoted two years later, in 1989, to Lieutenant and assigned to Ladder 168 and, with his promotion to Captain in 1993, he led Engine 243. Following his promotion to Battalion Chief in 1996, he served at Battalion 31 in Brooklyn, Battalion 22 in Staten Island and Battalion 2 in Manhattan. On 9/11, Chief Leonard was the Battalion Commander of Battalion 2 in Greenwich Village. In March 2002, he was promoted to Deputy Chief and subsequently designated Division Commander in August 2002. As the Division Commander, he commanded all firefighting units in Staten Island and Brooklyn South.
In 2010, Chief Leonard was appointed Deputy Assistant Chief and assigned as Brooklyn Borough Commander, with overall responsibility for the Department's largest field force by borough with more than 75 units and 2,000 Firefighters and Fire Officers. During Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Chief Leonard supervised all fire operations and response in Brooklyn as Borough Commander.
As Chief of Department, Chief Leonard has commanded numerous large scale fire and emergencies that have occurred in this city; including the Chelsea bombing, the terrorist attack on West Street, the Second Ave gas explosion, the 5th Avenue steam explosion, the Ebola and legionnaires crisis, the crane collapse in lower Manhattan along with countless large fires and emergencies. Under Chief Leonard’s leadership, the FDNY’s Counterterrorism Task Force (CTTF) was created.
Chief Leonard holds an Associate's degree in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology (Urban), both from St. Francis College (Brooklyn), and a Master’s Degree of Science in Fire Protection Management from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. A native New Yorker, Chief Leonard lives on Staten Island.