Ireland House Oral History Collection

Vincent Dunn


13 November 2007

1 hour, 56 minutes

Preferred Citation:

Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University

Biographical Note:

Vincent Dunn, who retired in 1999 as Commander of Division 3 (midtown Manhattan) with the New York Fire Department, was born in 1935 to Rose Ann and Magnus Vincent Dunn, a clerk in the New York City Comptroller’s office. His great-grandfather, James Dunn, emigrated from Ireland in the 1860s and his grandfather, Joseph Dunn, married Catherine Brennan, who was also from Ireland.

Vincent Dunn and his older sister, Katherine (Kay), were raised in Queens, New York. He attended elementary school at St. Teresa’s in Woodside and St. Anthony’s in Greenpoint, then Queens Vocational High School until dropping out at age sixteen. In 1952, Dunn enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the U.S.S. Lioba and to police duties in Guantanamo, Cuba.

Upon being discharged, Dunn began a forty-two year career as a firefighter.

Dunn completed his G.E.D. while in the Navy and went to college on the G.I. Bill, obtaining a B.A. in Sociology and an M.A. in Urban Studies in 1979 from Queens College, City University of New York. He has taught as an adjunct professor at Manhattan College and at John Jay College, City University of New York, and as an Instructor at the National Fire Academy. A contributing editor with Firehouse magazine and WNYF, Vincent Dunn is the author of Collapse of Burning Buildings: A Guide to Fireground Safety (1988), Safety and Survival on the Fireground (1992), Command and Control of Fires and Emergencies (2000), and Strategy of Firefighting (2007). He also produces and edits the website “The Unofficial Home Page of FDNY,”(1) and lectures nationally on fire and firefighter safety.

Married since 1959, the Dunns raised two children in Douglaston, Queens.

Click on image to enlarge.


Photo Credit:

  1. Vincent Dunn with his sister Kay at her First Communion, circa 1940. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  2. St. Anthony’s 8th grade class, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 1949. Vincent Dunn is just behind Brother Cyprian’s left shoulder. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  3. On graduation day from St. Anthony’s, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, 1949. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  4. The Navy’s newest recruit, 1952. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  5. Vincent Dunn and his father, Magnus, early 1950s. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  6. James Shaw and Vincent Dunn, Guantanamo, Cuba, early 1950s. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  7. Vincent Dunn appointed to the Fire Department City of New York, 1 February 1957. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  8. Vincent Dunn and Patricia Rutherford on their wedding day, 1959. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  9. First grade firefighter Vincent Dunn (standing, 3rd from right) with Engine Company 59 at 180 West 137st Street, Manhattan, 1960. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  10. Lieutenant Vincent Dunn with Engine Company 33, lower Manhattan, 1964. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  11. “The Fire Factory,” Engine Company 58, 110th Street, Manhattan, circa 1970. Left to right: Pete Dipiano, John Modafferi, Charlie Raye, Vin Marino Garth Henning, and Captain Vincent Dunn. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  12. Engine 58’s new pumper, 1972. Left to right, Walter Fourness, (in the seat), Captain Vincent Dunn, Charlie Matassa, Jim O’Rouke (on the stang), Joe Valenti (Nozzle Man), John Sineno “Da Cook”, Gene O’Shea (standing on John’s shoulders). Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  13. Vincent Dunn, his sister Kay, son Carl, and father Magnus at the Dunn plot in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, NY, 1973. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  14. Deputy Chief Dunn with Battalion 25, at a fire on Burnside Avenue in the Bronx, 1974. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  15. Vincent Dunn at the command board with Division 7, South Bronx, circa 1980. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  16. Vincent and Patricia Dunn with Carl and Faith, 1985. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  17. Losing first burning building as Commander of Division 3, in a five alarm fire at 48th Street and 8th Avenue, Manhattan, 1985. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  18. Deputy Chief Dunn at a structural collapse, 8th Avenue and 128th Street, Manhattan, with Rescue 3 Captain Joe Tiso (right). Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  19. Vincent Dunn (right) in a high rise fire training session with Field Com. Unit Captain John Timulty (left), circa 1990. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  20. Recipient of the Edward W. Whalen Award from the New York City Fire Safety Directors Association, with Penny Crone, ABC News/Channel 7 (New York), 1995. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  21. Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, New York City Fire Department, with (left to right) Thomas Von Esson, Nick Visconti, Mayor Guiliani, and Peter Vallone, 2000. Photo courtesy of Vincent Dunn.
  22. Vincent & Patricia Dunn, 1990s
  23. Vincent Dunn, 13 November 2007. Photo by Linda Dowling Almeida.


  1. The Unofficial Home Page of FDNY, Our History, A Never Ending Story,
  2. Orbach’s was a local department store.
  3. A car bomb detonated at the World Trade Center on 26 February 1993.
  4. Donald Trump, a New York City real estate developer.
  5. The reference is to “The Wild Colonial Boy,” a song about the Irish in Australia.
  6. Yorkville is a neighborhood on the upper east side of Manhattan.
  7. The Jaeger House was a bar/dance hall at 85th Street and Lexington Avenue, Manhattan, that was a popular Saturday night destination for young Irish and Irish Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s.
  8. City Center Ballroom was a dance hall on the west side of Manhattan on 55th Street that was another popular destination for young people as well as the site for many county association dances during the 1950s and early 1960s. City Center featured big band music as well as Irish ballads and traditional ceili music.
  9. Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, a Catholic parish in Forest Hills, Queens.