‘True American hero’: Caldwell County mourns loss of fire chief

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The Caldwell County community is mourning the loss of the Gamewell Fire Department chief, who passed away on Thursday.

Gamewell Fire Chief Sam Smith passed away at Mission Hospital in Asheville, according to a release from Caldwell County Emergency Services.

Smith was a member of the Gamewell Fire Department for over 35 years, serving as a firefighter, officer, board of director, and fire chief.

Valmead Fire Rescue released a statement about the passing of Smith, calling him a “true American hero” and speaking about Smith’s long career.

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“Chief Smith dedicated his entire life to serving others through the fire service. Anyone in Western North Carolina in the fire service has probably taken one of his training classes, or came through his Fire Academy at Hibriten High School. Sam Smith retired from Lenoir Fire, and started a Fire Academy for the local high schools to help with firefighter recruitment. After retiring from the school system, Sam worked tirelessly as Chief at Gamewell Fire Department; hosting a Junior fire academy just last month. Sam was well known and loved by firefighters all across our great country. Please keep the Smith family and Gamewell Fire Department in your prayers.”

Caldwell County is assisting the fire department and the Smith family during this time.

Details about the funeral will be announced at a later date.

(WATCH BELOW: Caldwell County cuts some out-of-county hospital transfers to keep EMS staff)