After 30 years, Sweet Home firefighter Guy Smith calls it quits

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District Battalion Chief Guy Smith worked his last day as a firefighter and medic Friday, Dec. 22.

The department held a farewell reception Thursday to celebrate his 30-year career, all of it here in Sweet Home.

“We have the best job in the world,” said Fire Chief Dave Barringer. “We have the opportunity and responsibility to serve people in a time of need and make a difference in handling their problems.”

He outlined the sacrifices firefighters and their families make, with interruptions to their lives, sleepless nights, stressful situations, injuries, physical and emotional fatigue and more.

“I am humbled by knowing what these people put themselves through to accomplish the task,” Barringer said. “Guy, you have been an example to all of us, and you have accomplished your task.”

Smith has faced many challenges and unfamiliar situations for nearly 31 years, Barringer said.

“I have seen you serve with honor, pride, perseverance, compassion, consistency and enthusiasm. I have learned from watching you that personal discipline and self-motivation are powerful characteristics that you possess.”

Smith shows up to work with his workout clothes on, with no reservations, Barringer said. “You let your shift know they are expected to work out. They all comply, from fear at first, and then many of them began to enjoy the teamwork and camaraderie this creates.”

Battalion Chief Eli Harris said it promotes training too. Smith wouldn’t expect anyone to work out if they were training, so he often worked his shift in turnouts, training.

“Your shift works as a team because you set the tone and communicate your expectations,” Barringer said. “I have enjoyed watching you take new firefighters under your wing and get them headed in the right direction. There is no doubt you love what you do. It is evident in your actions and accomplishments.”

Smith has been Employee of the Year twice and Firefighter of the Year three times, Barringer noted. He won the Pride and Ownership award, medic of the year, the medal of valor and the distinguished conduct award to name a few.

“Guy, you are the one we all go to when something is missing or there is a problem with the station or we need historical information how things were built,” Barringer said. “Your knowledge, skill and leadership will be greatly missed.

“I thank you for your efforts and most of all your friendship. Thank you to all of the Smith family for sharing Guy with us. You have sacrificed time you could have had with him so our community could benefit.”

Smith, 52, lived in Sweet Home until junior high. He and his family moved to Nebraska ,where he attended high school. After graduation, he returned to Sweet Home

“I had family, brothers and sisters, here still,” Smith said. He started out working for the Stock family at Clear Lumber and then drove truck for Bob Pickett.

He joined the Sweet Home Fire Department in 1987 as a volunteer when his foreman, a volunteer, “more or less coerced me into becoming a volunteer,” Smith said. As soon as he started, he knew it was what he wanted to do with his life.

Every day promised something different, Smith said, and he would be able to help people in the worst moments of their lives. Later on, he enjoyed the brotherhood and camaraderie of the department.

He started attending school at night to earn his EMT and paramedic certifications. The department hired him full time in 1990.

“I’ve been here since,” Smith said. Quite a few of his colleagues, including Barringer, over the years left and returned.

“I’m the one that never left.”

He looked elsewhere at times, Smith said, but he really wasn’t interested.

“I think maybe it fit my personality better,” Smith said. “We do everything here.”

Other places, jobs are more specialized, he said. A firefighter might spend all his time on hazmat. In Sweet Home, Smith said, he’s been able to do swift-water and steep-terrain rescues and much more. The job requires more versatility, “something different every day. Every day, you think you’ve seen it all, and something else happens.”

He’ll miss the brotherhood the most as he retires, Smith said. “It’s something knowing you have a group of people you can trust your life to and know they have your back.”

In this business, he said, it’s a second family. They spend a third of their lives with each other, and they’re friends outside of work, fishing and hunting together.

After retirement, Smith plans to look for some other work to supplement his income, he said, but he has another job first.

“My son is building a house,” he said. “So I’m going to be doing that for my first project.”

He hasn’t decided whether he will return to the department as a volunteer, he said. That will depend on what kind of work he’s doing after he finishes his son’s house.

Smith said he’s thought a lot about the department’s future when he retires, and he thinks it looks good.

It’s headed in the right direction, and it’s in good hands, he said.

Smith is married to Darlaine. They have two sons, Travis and Brent, and five grandchildren, with a sixth due in June.