DOWNTOWN — Fire Chief Jim Hone, who is credited with enhancing the Santa Monica Fire Department’s emergency preparedness following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, will retire in January 2010, he told his staff Thursday.

Hone, who joined the SMFD in 1980 after spending six years in the United States Air Force, was promoted to fire chief in 2003, having served as a firefighter/paramedic, fire captain, support services division chief and fire marshal.

“Jim is one of this country’s most knowledgeable and professional fire chiefs,” said City Manager Lamont Ewell, who announced his retirement Wednesday. “He certainly will leave a void in that profession, but we wish him well.”

Hone was not available for comment at presstime.

In an e-mail to his staff, Hone said contemplating retirement was an “emotional and personal experience” but a decision he could make given the achievements made over the past few years.

“After reflecting on the tremendous accomplishments that the city and the Santa Monica Fire Department have achieved … , the projects currently underway to be completed by the end of December 2009 and envisioning those goals still to be attained in the future, I feel the timing is right for our city, our fire department and for me to retire … .

“In addition to the six years in the United States Air Force as a fire protection crash rescue specialist I will have realized more than 36 memorable and satisfying years in the fire service,” Hone added. “I am excited to be retiring by the end of January to spend more time with my wife Linda who has provided me with unwavering support and been an integral part of my Santa Monica Fire Department career from the very beginning.”

Hone has been involved in disaster response, recovery and training for more than 25 years and has served on several local, state and federal disaster response teams and committees.

Hone has responded to six federal disasters to assist local governments and coordinate Federal Emergency Management Agency Urban Search and Rescue resources. The two most significant disasters include the 1995 Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City and the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

Hone, along with other SMFD members, developed Santa Monica’s Urban Search and Rescue and Hazardous Materials Response teams which specialize in mitigating technically challenging rescue and highly toxic emergency incidents. Additionally, the community Disaster Assistance Response Team course and the city’s Emergency Operations Center policies and procedures have been influenced by Hone’s disaster response, recovery and training experiences, according to the city’s Web Site.

Hone has an associate degree in fire science from the Community College of the Air Force and a bachelor’s degree in business management from Wayland Baptist College.