By Martin Couch
Lt. Kevin Smith is glad he got involved with the Bryant Fire Department these days.
Born and raised in Bryant, Smith has been pretty much all over the United States, but came home to get involved with the fire department for job security in a recession economy. Once he became a firefighter, a world of opportunity has opened up for him. Today, he is charge of the Bryant's Station 3 off of Springhill Road and Justus Loop in the city limits and he has five firefighters who he supervises.[more]
"The opportunity to work some place with exceptional people is something not everyone gets to do," Smith said. "Once you get into it, it becomes more than just a paycheck. These guys do this for more than that. It's a very satisfying and rewarding job."
Smith started as a volunteer firefighter in Salem and moved into the Bryant firehouse six years ago.
"Not everybody can do this job," he said. "But these guys can do it well and they enjoy coming to work every day. That makes it a lot easier."
Smith works days at Springhill and says the hardest part of his job is doing the required paperwork, but its not too bad, he added.
"Every time someone calls 911 they are going to get us too for medical or fire calls, all of us are EMTS," Smith said. "There is some stuff we do that is part of the job and parts you don't want to see. It's our job and that's where it comes down to working with a special group of men. It makes the job so much easier. Our station is in a residential area and blends in with the neighborhood. I feel like we're supposed to be there for the people and not be seen or heard until they need us."
There have been instances where Smith is glad he's a firefighter.
"There are calls that no doubt make me glad I'm doing this and chose this career," he said.
Smith has seen the Bryant Fire Department grow to a 24-hour/7-day a week operation with three stations from a one-station volunteer based system.
"When I first came to this department, we just were 12 hours on and 12 hours off and, at night, we had volunteers," he said. "With the volunteers, nobody missed a beat and now we've gone to a 24-hour department where we have at least 18 people on a shift every day. We've grown phenomenally and we're going to continue to grow.
"I like that opportunity here and the guys we are hiring we can actually pick and choose. We just don't take anybody. We remember when we operated out of one station and, with the growth, you've got to give those guys the credit."
Smith's son, Lance Smith is 20, shares the same birthday, Nov. 21, with his father and twin brother. Lance was in the military for a short time and will be enrolling in college this fall, according to Smith.
And Smith's girlfriend, Sherry Langley is a Registered Nurse at Saline Memorial Hospital and works in the labor and delivery area.
"I'm very lucky to have someone who I can come home to like her," Smith said. "It does help to have someone who understands what we do."