To Remember: DENNIS SMITH
September 9, 1940 - January 21, 2022
“Report From Engine Co. 82” was the first of his 16 books reflecting a time which told the story of the busiest firehouse during the “burn, baby, burn” War Years when alarm boxes were on every corner and the fire department had no idea what they were responding to.
The book sold more than 3 million copies and was translated into more than a dozen languages.
Dennis Smith is of Irish ancestry and grew up in a tenement on the East Side
. After a stint in the Air Force, he served with the FDNY for 18 years from 1963-1981. He was first assigned to Engine Company 292, a fire company located in Queens
. Three years later, in 1966, Dennis transferred to the busiest fire company in the city, and perhaps the world at the time, Engine Company 82, located in the South Bronx
Dennis inspired a nation of countless future firefighters, me included. Prior to the book being published I spent several times in the same firehouse as a young teenager home from school vacation riding with my “Uncle” Jack Mayne, a fireman with Ladder 31 that’s quartered with Engine 82. Riding with Jack through the streets of the poverty riddled South Bronx was incredible and awe inspiring. And, now here in front of me was a tell all narrative book. Dennis' writing drew me in and I’ve since read the book countless times. Dennis understood the very essence of the job and was able to convey that to us young wannabes.
In 1976, Dennis also started Firehouse magazine and was the founding chairman of the New York City Fire Museum. After 9/11, he, like many other retirees, worked the pile at Ground Zero, because, more than anything, he never forgot where he came from and 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.
My wife and I were interviewed in RFGZ by Dennis and we became very close friends. We dined together on special occasions, and received Christmas cards that were sketched in pencil by Dennis. We always looked forward to speaking with him on his birthday, he was a special friend to us.
Dennis died from complications of COVID-19
at a hospital in Venice, Florida
, on January 21, 2022, at age 81.
If ever there was a “renaissance firefighter,” Dennis Smith was it.
Photo by Glenn Usdin