The city announced today that Chief Rusty Thomas is retiring near the end of June.

“I feel as though the best thing I can do right now to help this department that I love so much heal from the tragedy of June 18 is to step aside as chief,” Thomas wrote to Mayor Joe Riley on Tuesday afternoon. “I have decided to retire from my service with the Charleston Fire Department, effective Friday June 27, 2008.”

Thomas is getting out a day before the release of the independent review team’s report on the Sofa Super Store fire that killed nine firefighters.

“I know that on the night of June 18, 2007, you did everything in your power to fight that terrible fire and protect our firefighters,” replied Mayor Riley. “Wihtout your efforts, more lives could have been lost. Since then, you helped us mourn, care for the families of our heroes and at the same time worked to lead our fire department in new initiatives to position us as a national leader in fire departments and to leave as a lasting legacy of this tragic fire that the City of Charleston is a model of national best practices in firefighting.”

It’s all very warm and fuzzy … until the other show drops tomorrow.