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Man on Fire: Franklin Smith

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January 27, 2020

For Port Firefighter Franklin Smith, his job doesn’t stop at the end of his 24-hour-shift. Smith spends his extra time adding to his skillset as a firefighter, sharing his passion for his job with others, and mentoring those interested in pursuing a career as a firefighter. This dedication has not gone unnoticed. Smith was selected by fellow Port Fire Department members as the 2019 Firefighter of the Year for the positive difference he makes in the department each day. Firefighter of the Year is awarded based on excellence in job performance, customer service, problem solving, goal achievement, innovative ideas, skill improvement, and exemplifying the Department’s principles and mission. 

Smith is a department CPR instructor and also spends time educating the general public on fire service. He has spent many off-duty evenings helping enrollees from firefighting academies strengthen their skill setsand pass their exams. In the award nomination, his coworkers shared that “Franklin is what we call a ‘quiet professional’ who is not only well liked, but respected by all in our organization. He is an individual who has dedicated his time at work to not only being a great firefighter but a mentor to the new hires and friend to many.”

“He is very dependable,” said Port Fire Department D Shift Captain Andrew Eicher. “If we give him a task, he’ll take it to heart and do a good job. He’s a fun guy to be around and he always has a smile on his face. People are drawn to his personality.”

We took a few minutes to catch up with Smith to talk about what he loves about being a firefighter and what it means to win this award.

Franklin Smith drives one of the Port Fire Department's engines.

Tell me about your background as a firefighter? How did you end up working for the Port?

I’ve been working at the Port for five years now. I started out as a volunteer firefighter for three months, and then was an aircraft firefighter in the Navy for seven years. I got into fire service as a kid after one of my neighbors’ houses caught on fire and when the fire department responded I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I went to go talk to one of the hydrant men who responded. He was a pretty cool guy. I grew up without a father so I ended up looking to him as an inspiration.  Later I went through the Washington State Patrol Fire Training Academy and met two of my instructors who are currently chiefs for this department and one who was a Battalion Chief for the Fire Department in Snohomish County. When the Port was hiring, the Battalion Chief for Snohomish County gave me a heads up. I went and tested that same weekend and two weeks later I got the job.

Port of Seattle Fire Department

What do you like about working at the Port?

The crew is a huge part of what makes working here great; we're truly a family here. We treat each other like family and hang out outside of work. We live together and we work together. I also love being around aircraft — that’s the reason why I got into aircraft firefighting in the Navy.

What’s the most rewarding thing about being a firefighter?

The most rewarding thing about working as a Port firefighter is helping people, especially people we don’t know. I take pride in doing the best I can. If we have a patient who doesn’t speak English, we work around that obstacle; whether it means getting a translator there or have them use body language to show what’s hurting. I love the compassion we have here. We may be helping someone who has never been in the state of Washington or it could be their first time in America. We are that ambassador; we're the first Americans that they meet. That’s my favorite part of the job.

Franklin Smith on the job.

You were named the 2019 Firefighter of the Year. What does this mean and why were you selected for this honor?

Firefighter of the Year is an honor voted on by peers and colleagues. Your peers and colleagues watch you throughout the entire year and look at who is a hard worker, who goes above and beyond. It’s meaningful and truly a blessing because it goes to show that people do notice the hard work. I’m not the type to say “Oh, I completed this; I did this.” It goes to show that people do pay attention to the quiet ones. I try to lead by example and do as I feel as I should be doing and do the right thing. In determining the award, the department looks over everything I’ve done and the classes I’ve taken. They look at what I’ve accomplished both on the job and outside of work. We have a diversity scholarship program and one of our previous winners wants to be a firefighter.  In order to go through the Fire Academy, you have to be sponsored by someone. Our department sponsored him, and so every so often he’ll come in and I’ll work with him one-on-one building his skills.

Franklin Smith is the 2019 Firefighter of the Year.

What do you love about your job?

I really love the different avenues this job opens up for me, and for anyone who wants to be in this field. Outside of working at the Port, I teach CPR on the side; I teach at the Fire Academy on side; I work at the racetrack as a firefighter on the side. That’s three other things I get to do that I love through the main job that I love. This job has given me an avenue to my hobbies, working other jobs.

Franklin Smith and his coworkers at the Port Fire Department.

What advice would give someone looking to become a firefighter?

Do it. Don’t hesitate. Start now. Sign up for plenty of ride alongs and get your face out there. Talk to plenty of fire departments. It’s best job in the world and it’s worth it. If you are thinking about it, it’s worth doing a ride along to see if this field is where you want to be.

Franklin Smith and his coworkers.

 

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