Firehouse Founder, FDNY Icon Dennis Smith Dies

Jan. 22, 2022
Dennis Smith, the author of "Report from Engine Co. 82" and a retired FDNY firefighter, started Firehouse in 1976 after seeing a need for a magazine focused on firefighters.

The fire service was in mourning Saturday as word spread about the passing of Dennis Smith, a retired FDNY firefighter who authored "Report from Engine Co. 82" and founded Firehouse magazine.

Billy Goldfeder first reported Smith's passing on Saturday morning. 

Smith grew up in Manhattan and took the FDNY exam in 1963.

He began his 18-year career with FDNY at Engine 292 in Queens and then transferred to the infamous Engine 82 in the South Bronx.

That assignment became the material for his 1972 book, "Report from Engine Co. 82" which told the tale of FDNY's busiest fire station during the War Years.

The book sold over 3 million copies and was translated into more than a dozen languages. 

 “I saw nothing in the (other trade magazines) that related to my work as a firefighter,” Smith said in 2016, which lead him to create Firehouse Magazine.

He teamed up with then-advertising director Bruce Bowling to begin publishing Firehouse in 1976, a bi-monthly magazine with coverage including incident reports, strategy and tactics, leadership, firefighter lifestyles, legal and political issues and history of the fire service.

"Dennis' contribution to the fire service as an innovator, author, publisher and supporter of the world-wide fire service spanned five decades before his death and will continue for decades to come," said Firehouse Editor-in-Chief Peter Matthews. 

"The ability for Dennis to share life-saving techniques to firefighters across the country and share the stories of firefighters around the world has impacted tens of thousands of firefighters."

A year later, he published the book "Firehouse" with photographer Jill Freedman. The grainy black and white photos illustrated the job of firefighters working in the South Bronx during the department's busiest period.

For Firehouse's 25th Anniversary in 2001, Smith reflected on the start of the magazine, "Suddenly, all the possibilities of sharing information that I had studied when working for a master’s degree in communications began to form in my mind. There is a place and a need for highly technical information, but I knew that firefighters wanted more realistic on-the-scene information about fighting fires in the various parts of our great nation, information that related directly to their everyday firefighting lives. This information existed, but if they didn’t get it from their local newspapers, it did not exist for our firefighters."

Following the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Smith wrote "Report from Ground Zero," sharing his experiences at the World Trade Center site, and interviews with firefighters and other responders. 

In 2005, Smith helped fund the launch of the National Firefighter Near-Miss Reporting System that collected near-miss reports to help the fire service better understand the dangers responders face. 

In 2016, which was Firehouse's 40th anniversary, Smith was inducted into the Firehouse Hall of Fame at Firehouse Expo in Nashville.

Smith authored 13 books after "Report from Engine Co. 82."

In 2000, Smith reflected on the loss of six firefighters at the Worcester, MA, Cold Storage warehouse fire.

After a fight in an FDNY firehouse left one firefighter seriously injured, Smith wrote an editorial about life in the firehouse being like life in any other home.

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