Dennis Smith (firefighter)
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Manhattan, New York City, United States
|Occupation||FDNY Firefighter (Retired), writer|
|Genre||Memoirs, Firefighting Research|
Dennis Smith is an American writer and retired firefighter. He is the author of 16 books, most notable of which is the memoir, Report from Engine Co. 82, a chronicle of his career as a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department in a South Bronx firehouse from the late 1960s and into the 1970s. Smith served for 18 years as a New York City firefighter, from 1963 to 1981, and is the most well-known advocate for firefighters in the United States. After 9/11, he chronicled the 57 days he spent in rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center collapse in a bestselling book, Report from Ground Zero.
Dennis Smith is also the creator, founder and chairman of Wavepeg, an innovative vertical-dynamic social media site.
Early life and career
According to his autobiography, Dennis Smith is of Irish ancestry and grew up in a tenement on the East Side of Manhattan. In 1963, Smith took the New York City Civil Service Test and became a firefighter in the New York City Fire Department. He was first assigned to Engine Company 292, a fire company located in Queens. Three years later, in 1966, Smith transferred to the busiest fire company in the city, and perhaps the world at the time, Engine Company 82, located in the South Bronx. In the mid-1970s, shortly after his first book was published, Smith transferred to Ladder Company 66 in the North Bronx. During the duration of his career, Smith lived with his family in the Orange County suburb of Washingtonville, New York, before moving to East 84th Street in New York City.
In 1976, Smith founded Firehouse magazine. The magazine became the journal of record for the American fire service, and accorded Smith as its editor the opportunity to educate himself on most of the nation’s emergency management concerns. He sold Firehouse in 1991, but continued as founding editor. At the time, Firehouse was a monthly trade magazine with a circulation of 120,000, and a readership of 700,000 within the community of firefighters. While serving as the editor and publisher of Firehouse, Smith also created the Firehouse Muster and Convention in Baltimore (now in Nashville). He was presented with the Legacy Award of Firehouse Magazine in 2016.
Dennis Smith is a leader in New York City and national charitable organizations. He was the founding chairman of the New York Academy of Art. He was also the founding chairman of the New York City Fire Museum on Spring Street. From 1975 to 1995, he was president or chairman of the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club in the Southeast Bronx, where 9000 youngsters were members. He also served on the national board of advisors of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and was elected to that institution’s prestigious “Hall of Fame”. His bronze bust resides in the lobby of the BGCA’s Atlanta headquarters.
Smith was a trustee of the New York Fire Foundation, a charity that supported special projects and needs of the fire commissioner. The foundation purchased pass alert devices for firefighters, computer services for firehouses, and was at the forefront of investigating the needs of firefighters and their departments. In 1991, he created the Foundation for the Health and Safety of American Firefighters with the royalties from one of his books. The foundation supported health and safety efforts through grants to leading organizations in the fire service.
He was also a founding member who served on the board of the Congressional Fire Services Institute, an organization created by an Act of Congress. It provides emergency service management information and conclusions to the congress, and has been honored by visits from Presidents George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, Homeland Security head Tom Ridge, and many congressional leaders.
For eight years after 9/11, Smith served as a trustee of the New York Police & Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, a charity that benefits the families of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty.
Smith’s service to firefighters and his leadership in their causes have been recognized in numerous awards by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Fire Academy, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
The International Association of Fire Chiefs award cited Smith:
|“||For your accurate and colorful portrayal of the fire service in your books, for your vision in creating the Foundation for the Health and Safety of American Firefighters, and for your dedication to education by pioneering Firehouse Magazine.||”|
Smith received a B.A. in English from New York University in 1970, and an M.A. in Communications from NYU in 1972.
Dennis Smith has written sixteen books in his career, among them:
- Report from Engine Co. 82
- Final Fire
- Glitter & Ash
- Steely Blue
- History of Firefighting in America
- The Aran Islands - A Personal Journey
- Firehouse (accompanying photographs by Jill Freedman)
- Dennis Smith's Fire Safety Book
- Firefighters - Their Lives in Their Own Words
- A Song for Mary
- Report from Ground Zero
- San Francisco Is Burning - The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires
- A Decade of Hope - Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Families and Friends
- Of Love and Courage 
- The Little Fire Engine That Saved The City
- Brassy the Fire Engine
- Amazon: report From Engine Co. 82
- New York State Writers Institute: Dennis Smith