Firefighters across ETX help department after tragic loss
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -
East Texas firefighters from all over Smith County are reaching out after the death of a Jackson Heights Volunteer firefighter.
Jalen Smith, 20, died Monday. He and two other volunteer firefighters were involved in a car wreck Friday night, while they were responding to an emergency call.
On Wednesday, the Jackson Heights Volunteer Fire Chief Terence Thompson said he is overwhelmed by the support of East Texans during this difficult time at their department.
Firefighters from all over the county are taking turns manning the station twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week until Sunday.
There are also two honor guards protecting Smith's casket until the service on Saturday.
A New Mexico fire department contacted Chief Thompson and said they would to be a part of Smith's funeral precession.
Chief Thompson said explaining the bond between firefighters is difficult.
"Once you get into this service, you meet a lot of people and they always open up their hearts to you and you never forget that. So, when it comes to brotherhood, it's there, it's unexplainable," Chief Thompson said.
Smith became a volunteer firefighter in September 2011. Chief Thompson said Smith's dream was to one day become a full time firefighter at a large station, so the department gathered up the funds to send him to firefighter school in January.
Although Smith had only been with the department a year, he was not a new face.
Smith's grandfather was one of the founders of the department, so he spent a lot of time at the station when he was young.
Chief Thompson said he was incredibly close to Smith and his family.
"He's special to me because his grandmother watched my children. I have two little boys. He's very special to me. They see my little boys every day, the times I'm not there," Chief Thompson said as his eyes filled with tears.
The firefighters had nominated Smith to receive the "Firefighter of the Year" award on Saturday. Now, that award will be read at his service.
There will be a public visitation from 1-4 p.m. at the Jackson Heights VFD Station #2, which is located at 19823 Hwy 31 East, Tyler TX. A candlelight vigil is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the station.
There will also be a public viewing at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler beginning at 11:30 a.m., followed by a service at 1 p.m.
Donations can be made at any Austin Bank location. The memorial fund is set as "Jackson Heights Volunteer Fire Department Benefit Account for Jalen Smith."