Wright-Patterson Air Force Base fire fighter Frank A. Smith died in the line of duty in 1932, a fact that may have been lost had Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Local F-88 Secretary-Treasurer Steven McKee not stumbled across information about Smith.
While on a tour of a building on base, the base historian showed McKee an old booklet once provided to civilians for a self-driving tour of the base. Inside the book was a dedication of Building 76 – the former Fire Station 3 – to Frank A. Smith, who died in the performance of his duties.
“My curiosity was sparked immediately,” says McKee. “Since the guide provided so little information, initially, I just wanted to know more. One of my first stops was the Greene County Public Library.”
McKee worked with the librarian to find Smith’s death certificate and relatives. But the relatives were very distant and could not provide much additional information.
Other public records confirmed Smith had been a fire fighter who died in the line of duty on September 15, 1932. On that day, Smith and his fellow fire fighters had been called to respond to an acetylene tank fire at a motor pool facility. Smith sustained third degree burns to several parts of his body. He would later die of his injuries.
After further research, it was discovered that Smith was buried in an unmarked grave. Local F-88 members turned to local businesses for assistance, and Dodd’s Monuments agreed to donate a marker for Smith.
In 2012, a re-dedication ceremony took place at Smith’s grave site that included several fire fighter traditions, such as the sounding of the Last Alarm and the Presentation of the Flag.
“We wanted to make sure his name lives on and that the sacrifice of this fallen brother was properly acknowledged,” says McKee.
Local F-88 has continued to work to ensure Smith’s sacrifice is never forgotten.
In 2015, Smith’s name was added to the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial. And soon, McKee hopes to replace the plaque for Smith at the old Fire Station 3 with one that more accurately depicts Smith’s service and sacrifice.