by FERNANDA SANTOS With Michele McPhee
A veteran firefighter who helped shepherd the Fire Department through 9/11 and spearhead its rebuilding has been picked to serve in the city's top uniformed post.
Peter Hayden, formerly the assistant chief of operations, replaces Frank Cruthers as the FDNY's chief of department - a job that puts him in charge of 14,000 uniformed and civilian employees.
Cruthers is the Fire Department's new first deputy commissioner, whose main task is to oversee counterterrorism training and response.
"The FDNY could not be in better hands," said Mayor Bloomberg, who joined Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta in announcing the appointments yesterday at City Hall.
The chief of department, a civil servant, must be given tenure within two years of taking the post or lose his job.
The appointments spark a set of leadership changes within the Fire Department, including the nomination of a new Emergency Medical Services boss.
Chief of EMS Operations Robert McCracken, who is up for retirement, will be replaced once Hayden and Scoppetta jointly approve one of the handful of candidates who have interviewed for the job, a high-ranking FDNY official said.
Hayden and Cruthers graduated from the Fire Academy in 1968, worked in firehouses in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx and went on to rebuild the Fire Department's ranks together after the terror attacks.
Both have held the jobs of battalion chief, deputy chief, deputy assistant chief and assistant chief.
Cruthers worked as chief of department twice. His first run lasted a year, ending in 1997.
"Frank and Peter are two of the best fire professionals in the world," said Michael Regan, who served as interim first deputy fire commissioner between September 2001 and January 2002. The post had been vacant since.
Cruthers will be paid $159,500, while Hayden will earn $154,800.