Dennis Fields Jr. to be named fire chief
Assistant Fire Chief Dennis Fields Jr. will take over the role of Oneida fire chief on May 30, when Chief Kevin Salerno retires fromthe department after 28 years of service to the community.
Salerno joined the department in 1990 as an excited rookie who couldn’t wait for his next work duty day. He climbed the ranks through the years, attaining lieutenant in 1999, then deputy fire chief in 2011. He was appointed chief on Oct. 8, 2013, after former chief Gregg Myers retired following 29months in the position and 39 years with the department.
Salerno wrote a letter of recommendation for Fields, saying his replacement has good ideas that will move the department in
a positive direction.
“We both learned about it in the early morning,” Salerno said Tuesday. “Fields was very excited about the decision. It’s something he’s wanted and worked towards his entire career. I think the city and department will be in good, capable hands.”
Originally a civilian firefighter with Griffiss Air Force Base, Fields was one of several people looking for a new job when the base began to close down around 1996.
As a permanent employee, Fields had the choice to go anywhere on the East Coast with the Department of Defense. Living in Oneida, Fields’ wife at the time wanted to stay in the area rather than move.
Fields passed the civil service exam and joined the Oneida Fire Department in December 1996. In 2007, Fields received the Oneida Fire Department’s highest award, the Charles V. Decker Medal of Valor for going above and beyond the call of duty when fellow firefighter Mitch Dryer was caught under debris during the City Lanes fire.
Fields dug Dryer out of the debris, even as his air tank ran dry and past the point of physical and emotional exhaustion. Fields is only the second firefighter to receive this award.
Twenty-two years since joining the Oneida Fire Department, Fields said becoming fire chief is something he’s worked hard for and the pinnacle of every firefighter’s career. When asked, Fields said he doesn’t see any major hurdles during the transi- tion process.
“I just need to get acclimated with more of the administrative portion of the job,” Fields said. “I know most of it being the assistant chief, but obviously it’s going to take some time to get fully acclimated.”
Fields said Salerno did a great job as chief and doesn’t see changing much from what his predecessor did.
“We’re looking to maintain the same quality and commitment to the public that we’ve always administered,” Fields said.
Fields will be sworn in on May 30.
Dennis Fields Jr.