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End of an era

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle Fire Chief Rickey Joe Smith couldn't wait until he got old enough to fight fires. Now, after 30 years on the job, he feels like a weight has been lifted from his shoulders and is ready to start a new career.
Chief Smith got the chance to become a fire fighter at the age of 16. In November 1974, he was a junior at Falkville High School and was working at Jack McCaig's grocery store.
The town's fire department was being re-organized.
After heading up Hartselle's fire department for 16-plus years, Chief Smith will retire effective Oct. 29 and begin a new career as owner-operator of an established wrecker service here.
Chief Smith has witnessed dramatic changes in firefighting during his career.
At that time, FVFD operated a 1955 model fire truck with a 500 gallons per minute pump and a 500-gallon storage tank. It also has a 1,250-gallon water tanker and a two and one-half ton Army truck on loan from the forestry service. Personal equipment consisted of four helmets and four coats.
Following his graduation, he served as Falkville fire chief for about eight months, after which he landed a job with Decatur Fire Department in November 1979. He remained in that job for nine years.
Chief Smith was named Hartselle fire chief in August, 1988, and has played a major role in upgrading the city's fire and rescue service.
He credits the improvement to fire safety education, advanced training, communications technology and better equipment.