Dennis Smith is a former firefighter, a writer and president of a financial services company for emergency services personnel. He served for 18 years as a firefighter with the New York City Fire Department and is an advocate for firefighters in the United States.
Smith began his career as a firefighter with the New York Fire Department in 1963, and served in some of the city’s most active and dangerous fire districts. In 1972, Smith published Report from Engine Co. 82, a non-fictional account of life in the South Bronx firehouse...the world’s busiest...in which he served. It was a New York Times best seller, sold more than two million copies, and was translated into thirteen languages.
He also featured very heavily in the 1972 BBC documentary The Bronx is Burning where he gave a graphic account of the life of a firefighter in the Bronx. He retired from firefighting in 1982 and founded Firehouse Magazine.
Three more national best sellers about firefighting followed. In all, Smith has written 14 books; A Song for Mary was chosen by Book-of-the-Month Club as the best memoir of 1999. His most recent, Report from Ground Zero, was number two on the New York Times Best Seller list in March, 2002, the Senior Counsel to “The United States Commission on September 11th” has written, “I have read much of the writing about the emergency response that day, and have found Report from Ground Zero to be the closest to a definitive account.” His latest book is Good Men Bad Decisions.
In 1976, Smith founded Firehouse magazine, the largest circulating magazine for firefighters in the world. This magazine quickly became the journal of record for the American fire service, and accorded Smith as its editor the opportunity to educate himself on most if not all of the nation’s emergency management concerns. He sold Firehouse in 1991, but continues as Founding Editor. He also continues to contribute occasionally. Firehouse is a monthly with a circulation of 120,000, and a readership of 700,000 within the community of firefighters. While the editor and publisher of Firehouse, Smith also created the Firehouse Muster and Convention in Baltimore, the nation’s most successful emergency services annual convention.
Dennis Smith is a prominent leader in a number of New York City and national charitable organizations. He was the founding chairman of the New York Academy of Art, and for ten years taking the school from its modest beginnings to one of the most reputable, degree granting art institutions in the nation. He continues today with the school as its Secretary and Chairman Emeritus.
His concern for youngsters and for the vibrancy and viability of neighborhoods is illustrated by his work with young people and with youth professionals. For the last eighteen years, he has been president or chairman of Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club in the Southeast Bronx, where 9000 youngsters are members. For more than thirty years he has served on the national board of advisors of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and was recently elected to that institution’s prestigious “Hall of Fame”. In consequence his bronze bust resides in the lobby of the BGCA’s Atlanta headquarters.
Smith’s service to firefighters and his leadership in their causes have been recognized in numerous significant awards, most recently by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the National Fire Academy, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. In 1991, Mr. Smith created the Foundation for the Health and Safety of American Firefighters with the royalties from one of his books. The foundation supports health and safety efforts through grants to leading organizations in the fire service. The foundation has given about $75,000 per year to these organizations and to burn care facilities. Mr. Smith is a trustee of the New York Fire Foundation, an important charity that supports special projects and needs of the fire commissioner. This organization purchased the pass alert devices for firefighters, computer services for firehouses, and has been in the forefront of investigating needs of firefighters and the department.
He also serves on the board of the Congressional Fire Services Institute, an organization created by an Act of Congress. It provides crucial and contemporary 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.
Dennis Smith also serves as a trustee of the New York Police & Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, an important charity that benefits the families of firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty.
The recent International Association of Fire Chiefs award cited Smith:
This award from the nation’s most prestigious emergency organization indicates the esteem in which Mr. Smith is held by the most important fire service organization in the country, and perhaps the world.
Beginning in 1992, Mr. Smith built a series of financial services businesses directed to firefighters. He formed a venture with First USA (now BankOne) to offer financial servoces to firefighters. The affinity card is one of First USA’s most successful, and it is held by many of the nation’s firefighters.
In 1998, Smith began an affinity-marketing program with Chase Manhattan Home Mortgage Company for the provision of home mortgages to firefighters. This program has recently been launched nationwide.
Recently, Mr. Smith and his company, First Responders Financial, has joined in a relationship with Lehman Brothers and its wholly owned company, Neuberger Berman, to provide financial products to the universe of the nations 9.5 million first responders, and to fire and police departments, ambulance services, and hospital personnel organizations.
Mr. Smith received a B.A. in English from New York University in 1970, and an M.A. in Communications from NYU in 1972. Mr. Smith successfully completed NASD Series 7, Series 45, Series 63 and Series 65 examinations and is a licensed insurance broker in all states that require license.