Dr. Denis Onieal to serve as acting deputy director of the United States Fire Administration

By Bobby Halton

Dr. Denis Onieal, superintendent of the National Fire Academy, on January 20 will assume the duties as the “acting” deputy director of the United States Fire Administration. Superintendent Onieal will be serving in the position of deputy director until a deputy director can be selected during a process which will be conducted after President-elect Obama assumes office.

Superintendent Onieal stated that he intends to return to his position as the superintendent of the National Fire Academy when someone is selected to occupy the position of deputy director full-time. Dr. Onieal made it clear that he fully supports Greg Cade, our current United States Fire Administrator and hopes Cade will be reappointed to the position.

Denis Onieal was appointed superintendent of the National Fire Academy in 1995. He is the first non-political appointee to the position and was selected after a competitive, nationwide search. The NFA is a beautiful two-hundred year old, 107 acre, 22 building campus located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 2006, the NFA trained 78,000 firefighters and officers from all 50 States with a cadre of over 500 instructors.

A life-long resident of Jersey City, Dr. Onieal graduated from Rice High School in the Harlem section of New York City in 1966 and was drafted into the Army in 1967. He returned home from overseas with an honorable discharge in 1969 and began attending New Jersey City University (then Jersey City State College) on the G.I. Bill. He was among the first six graduates to receive a Bachelor of Science Degree from the Fire Science Department in 1976, and immediately began graduate study in Public Administration at Fairleigh (Fair-Lee) Dickinson University. He was awarded a Master of Public Administration Degree 1978, and began teaching in the Fire Science Program at NJCU until 1983 when he began doctoral studies in the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. NYU conferred a Doctorate in Education degree in 1990, and he taught in the Master and Doctorate programs in Education at NYU for five years.

He joined the Jersey City (NJ) Fire Department in 1971, rising through the ranks: Firefighter, Lieutenant, Captain, Battalion Chief, Deputy Chief, and then acting chief in 1995, leading a uniformed force of over 600 firefighters and officers. He has spent his entire time “in the street” as a line fire officer. During that time, he coached thousands of New Jersey and New York firefighters to prepare them for civil service entrance and promotional examinations.

Dr. Onieal received the 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Fire Science Program at NJCU; Distinguished Alumnus from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Graduate School of Public Administration; The International Fire Service Training Association Hudiburg Award for significant contributions to the training of firefighters; The Humanitarian Award from the Professional Fire Fighters of New Jersey; The Humanitarian Award from the New Jersey Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Association; and four Departmental Commendations from the Jersey City Fire Department. He was awarded the Fire Engineering Lifetime Achievement Award at FDIC 2007.

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