53ºF

Local legend ignores retirement, returns to help fellow firefighters battle flames

HOUSTON – It took 135 firefighters to get the fire under control, but one was getting a lot of high fives and hugs from his fellow firefighters.

Michael "Smitty" Smith spent more than 42 years of his life dedicated to protecting Houstonians.

Smith should have been at home enjoying his retirement, but that's not his nature.

"Well, they're going to need some help; it's hot," Smith said.

That was the first thought Smitty had when he saw his fellow firefighters from Station 28 battling a three-alarm fire under an August sun.

"It's kind of like the old fire horses, when they hear the bell they just go," Smith said.

Smitty strapped on his old bunker gear, hopped in his truck and raced to the Courtyard complex on Richmond at Sage.

"Took me awhile to get here because they got the traffic all locked up," Smith said.

Smitty helped his comrades any way he could as they knocked down the flames and saved the lives of those inside.

"Another half-hour, I would have been in there taking a nap," resident Laverne Forehand said.

Amazingly, no one was hurt in the fire, but the flames claimed a lot of property.

"Rare paintings, antiques, computers, my clothes," Forehand said.

Smitty says helping people like Forehand and love for his fellow firefighters is why he dedicated his life to the department. And while he may have retired in June, he certainly hasn't stopped being a firefighter.

"I knew I wanted to stay active so, if I'm not fighting fire here, if I move out of town, I'll join a volunteer and fight fire there," Smith said.

When Smitty's picture was put on KPRC's Facebook page, the word 'legend' was used more than once by those who knew him. As for the fire at this complex, arson investigators are working on finding a cause.