Fort Irwin Fire Chief retires after 30 years of service

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Fire Chief Ray Smith (Casey Slusser)

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Fort Irwin Fire Department Chief, Ray Smith, retired Aug. 30, with more than three decades of public service. Smith, who has been at the helm of the Fort Irwin Fire Department for the past ten years, upon relinquishing his post, has plans to travel the country in his motorhome this fall.

“Aug. 30, marks the anniversary of my dad’s death,” Smith said. “I’m 54, my dad passed away from a heart attack when he was my age. I want to travel, enjoy my family, have the life he wasn’t afforded.”

Upon graduating Barstow High School in 1983, Smith worked as a Training Support Center Photographer at Fort Irwin, and volunteered as a firefighter in the nearby town of Hinkley, California. Smith’s combined work history lead to his impending career. In 1985, Smith learned that the department Chief was looking for someone to be a staff photographer, and with Smith’s photographic and volunteer fire experience, he fit the bill.

“This journey turned into a fantastic career,” Smith said.

“The Chief has been here since he was 18-years-old,” Deputy Fire Chief John Michna said. “There’s not many around who have his institutional knowledge, he’s going to be missed.”

During his tenure, Smith was instrumental in the implementation of the ALS emergency services expansion. When 20-year-old Smith became a firefighter, Fort Irwin was the home of just one fire station and three fire trucks. Smith retired overseeing three fire stations, a fleet of 28 fire trucks, covering a 1,350 mile radius, and manages 177,600 emergency personnel hours annually.

The Chief played an integral role in the growth and implementation of the first joint military and civilian paramedic response team. This team includes nine medics, two medic engines and one rescue helicopter. This team is essential in providing rapid response for serious trauma patients in the area.

“This team took ten weeks from conception to implementation,” Smith said. “This team plays an important role in collaboration and response to keep the Fort Irwin and surrounding communities safe,” he added.

The Fort Irwin Emergency response teams, along with keeping the Fort Irwin community safe, are often additionally dispatched to assist with hazards on Irwin road, and Interstate 15. When available, they also may assist with domestic home fires in the surrounding rural areas, such as Yermo, Calico, and Newberry. The Fort Irwin Firefighters are trained under the California and Department of Defense standards in structural firefighting, rescue, hazardous material, confined space and wildland firefighting.

“I took pride in being an integral part of the community–helping keep people safe in their darkest moments,” Smith said. “I am proud to have been able to protect those who protect our nation.”