Den­nis Fields Jr. to be named fire chief

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By The Dis­patch Staff news­room@onei­dadis­patch.com @Onei­daDis­patch on Twit­ter

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.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF ONEIDA FIRE DEPART­MENT

Den­nis Fields Jr.

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