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PORTRAIT OF A FIRE CHIEF

Reprinted from a newsletter written in 1971

In the year 1898 Charles E. Smith was born in Chula Vista when the community consisted of only forty families. As he grew up he developed a keen interest in the fire service. He became a member of the Hercules Potash Company Fire Department prior to entering the Army during World War I.

After being discharged, he volunteered as a firefighter to serve his hometown. In May 1921 Chula Vista organized its fire department and Charles Smith was appointed the first fire chief for the city.

Chief Smith worked hard and diligently to provide the best fire protection possible for his community. Through his efforts many techniques were developed which are standard procedure in modern fire departments.

Leaving Chula Vista he joined the California State Fire Marshal’s Office in 1931 and continued his efforts to improve fire protection. Through his research an effective building code was created which brought him a national award for his fire prevention work. He was later instrumental in establishing the Uniform Building Code as a guide for all State construction.

With the outbreak of World War II, Mr. Smith again answered the call to the service of his country. He fought fire aboard ship as well as ashore, experimented with new firefighting techniques for the government, and he instructed school in firefighting.

After the war he returned to the State Fire Marshal’s Office where he served until 1955. During his last ten years he served in a supervisory capacity that dealt primarily with inspection and research work.

In 1955 Mr. Smith went into private practice as a consultant and continued to be active in all phases of fire and life safety. After thirteen years in private business, he is now retired in San Raphael, California.

In looking back over his years of service he says he was very fortunate because he says of his entire career, “It was like looking through a hole in a fence – into tomorrow.”

Charles E. Smith certainly exemplifies the type of man that has made the fire service the great institution it is today. We are proud to call him “Chief.”

City Of Chula Vista

 

 

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