The Founding Of Firehouse®

Founding Editor Dennis Smith recalls the idea that launched Firehouse® Magazine and takes readers through the publication’s earliest days.


It’s hard to believe. Twenty-five summers with the length of 25 winters have passed since that spring day back in 1975 when I first came to the idea of creating a magazine especially for firefighters. Or, I should say, when the idea came to me, for it literally plopped into my lap. I was at...


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Bartle had worked on political campaigns in New York, and so approached the subscription challenge as a campaign. First, write to every firefighter and convince him (now it would be him and her) that Firehouse® had many important and interesting things to tell them. Fine, but what are their addresses?

We came to the idea of writing to every fire chief in the country, because their names and addresses were available, asking them to help us start the magazine by sending us their lists of firefighters with their home addresses (I did this again just recently to begin another venture that I think important to firefighters). To my greatest satisfaction, more than 42% of out fire chiefs sent me their lists, and we had, lo and behold, the names and addresses of enough firefighters to enable us to get the magazine off the ground with 50,000 subscribers.

The second challenge, the selling of ad space, was met by hiring someone who would be with Firehouse® from the beginning to now. Longevity is important, and Firehouse® has been fortunate to have this man prevail in his work through thick times and thin. That is our publisher, Bruce Bowling, who still maintains that we hired him because he had red hair and we thought he was Irish. It didn’t matter what we thought, aside from the fact that we liked him a lot, for he went on to be a bastion on the business side of the fire service, known to every man and woman in the country who has a product to sell to firefighters or fire departments. He also became my partner in the firm. If you need business done in the fire service, I think it is safe to advise, see Bruce.

It was not easy to build a national magazine of good reputation, but it is as satisfying to me to see Firehouse® as it is today as to see that my five children have become good citizens and contributing young adults.

To say that it was fun and exciting is like saying that firefighters respond when the alarm is called. I had the pleasure of meeting congressmen, senators and presidents, but most of all I met thousands of great people over the years, all of whom who spend a lot of time on fire trucks.

Firehouse® Magazine has matured, and is by all accounts the fundamental voice in the American fire service. I am privileged to have had something to do with it, and I offer my gratitude to the many, many professionals who helped us edit, write and sell it over the years.