Notes from the Fireground

Memoir of a New York Firefighter


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About the Book

In a 33-year career with the New York City Fire Department, Tom Dunne fought hundreds of fires, survived near death incidents, crawled down burning hallways, met unforgettable characters, and witnessed the 9/11 terrorist attack. From working in glittering mid-Manhattan high-rises to squalid ghetto tenements, he saw how people in crisis lived and survived and how the firefighters who served them worked and bonded. Exploring both the positive and controversial aspects of being a firefighter, this no-holds barred memoir provides an honest account of an unusual occupation that outsiders seldom get to see.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Dunne is a retired deputy chief and 33 year veteran of the New York City Fire Department. He has published numerous articles for fire service publications and is currently lecturing about his experiences in the FDNY through his Third Alarm Fire Training presentations. Visit his website at

Bibliographic Details

Thomas Dunne

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 213
Bibliographic Info: 24 photos, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7988-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3870-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  ix
Author’s Note  x
Preface  1
The Smoke House  5
Seeing the Elephant  11
This Guy’s Light  15
The 15/16ths Jewel  21
The Scuttle  24
The Wrapper  33
The Guys (and Gals)  41
What’s Behind Door Number 2?  49
Celebrity Steam Leaks  54
Going Down  57
Hey Lieu!  63
Buffs  71
What If?  77
A Discourse on Dirt  83
A Brush with Mortality  88
Lost in Translation  94
Letters in the Attic  100
A Jane Doe  105
Commanding Stress  108
Thinking Like an Incident Commander  114
On the Circuit  122
The Lie  129
Zen and the Art of Firefighting  134
The Write Stuff  139
A Midnight Clear  144
And Now, Live on Scene…  150
The Day After  155
We’re Only Human  162
The Papers  168
Mentors and Maniacs  175
My Two Worlds  182
Let It Burn  185
Leaving the Tribe  190
Why Me?  195
Final Thoughts  197
Index  199

Book Reviews & Awards

• “A must in any firefighters library… [Dunne] provides opinion, advice and tactical considerations well worth all our reading.”—Fire Fighters Close Calls

• “Exploring both the positive and controversial aspects of being a firefighter, this no-holds barred memoir provides an honest account of an unusual occupation that outsiders seldom get to see. …While there are many memorable incidents in his career a few stand out and are intimately described”—International Fire Fighter

• “This book should be required reading for anyone who maintains a desire to learn about firefighting, or to put on the fireman’s uniform. Tom Dunne rose through the ranks of Fireman, Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief and Deputy Chief. In Notes from the Fireground you learn what to expect from each. He not only knows how to talk the talk, but he shares the walks with you. You can trust him. He merges the intellectual with the street-smart to convince the reader of the fearlessness and the satisfactions that are found in the firefighter’s heart, and in the love of the job. It will become a classic.”—Dennis Smith, author of Report From Engine Company 82

• “Tom had an exemplary career in the FDNY and is able to tell a story of interest to all. FDNY members as well as non-members will be at times enlightened, amused and touched as he recounts, from his vast personal experience, life within the world’s greatest fire department. Our Department has been blessed throughout our history to have attracted men and women like Tom Dunne. I thank him for telling our story in such a personal way.”—Dan Nigro, Fire Commissioner, New York City Fire Department

• “The stories Tom presents from his years in the FDNY can be applied to many current fireground operations. More importantly, he reminds us what the true spirit of what being ‘on the job’ is all about—helping the citizens whenever needed.”—Peter Matthews, Editor-in-Chief of Firehouse Magazine