Dr. Denis Onieal is the Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). He was named to this position in May 2015. He is responsible for managing the U.S. Fire Administration and the programs and training activities at the National Emergency Training Center.
He joined the Jersey City Fire Department in 1971 and rose through the ranks from firefighter to deputy chief, then acting chief in 1995, leading a uniformed force of 620 firefighters and officers. He spent his entire time “in the street” as a line fire officer.
Dr. Onieal was appointed superintendent of the National Fire Academy (NFA) in 1995. He completed a Bachelor of Science degree from New Jersey City University in 1976, a master’s degree in public administration from Fairleigh (FAIR´-lee) Dickinson University in 1978, and a Doctor of Education degree from New York University (NYU) in 1990. He taught in the master and doctorate programs in education at NYU for five years and has written numerous articles in the fire field.
During Dr. Onieal’s tenure, the NFA expanded its outreach program to work more closely with state and local training agencies to increase NFA training from 15,000 people in 1995 to 110,000 people in 2015. All NFA courses were revised to include college credit recommendation and continuing education units for resident and off-campus deliveries. The academy’s online training program trained over 45,000 people in 2014. In cooperation with over 100 colleges and universities, the NFA has standardized the associate and bachelor degree curriculum across the nation. The NFA now offers courses from 10 minutes to 10 days in all professional development topics, depending upon the students’ needs.
Dr. Onieal led USFA’s team at the World Trade Center in 2001, working behind the scenes to help the New York City Fire Department re-establish systems of command, control and on-site communications. In 2005, he was sent to Atlanta, Georgia, to lead the in-processing, training and dispatch of 4,000 firefighters to assist in the response to Hurricane Katrina.
In March 2015, Dr. Onieal was awarded the James O. Page EMS Achievement Award from the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ EMS Section. This award honors those who demonstrate professionalism, a drive for excellence, and exemplary performance and leadership.
In April 2015, the Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI) awarded Dr. Onieal the CFSI/Motorola Solutions Mason Lankford Fire Service Leadership Award. The award recognizes individuals who are proactive at the local, state and federal government levels to improve and advance fire/emergency services and life safety issues.
From January 2017 through August 2017, Dr. Onieal served as Acting U.S. Fire Administrator.