ST. PAUL, Ore. (KOIN) — An estimated 5000 people attended the memorial service for St. Paul firefighter Austin Smith, including 1000 in uniform, Saturday afternoon.
Smith, 30, lost his life in an explosion while battling a large barn fire.
Around 400 emergency vehicles — fire, EMS, law enforcement from Oregon, Washington and neighboring states — took part in a procession from Woodburn to the St. Paul Rodeo grounds before the 90-minute memorial service began around 1 p.m.
Smith’s friends and colleagues reflected on his life and his contributions to the community.
His family and friends said he loved the water and boating.
“Nobody wants to be here today. This wasn’t our plan. This wasn’t what we wanted,” one woman said. “Our plans have changed and change is hard. Austin had plans to open his tap house, to go fishing and spend more days on the ocean.”
“You know this week’s been pretty tough. There’s been a lot of reflection on what’s been going on this week. I think as we talk about this and the fire service community we all realize this could have been any one of us,” said Capt. Tim Nokes with Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. “Austin was outside of a building performing fire ground task outside and that could have easily been any one of us in the same position he was in.”
St. Paul Jaycees Vice President Ray Connor said Smith “was a stand-up guy. He was everyone’s friend. It didn’t matter how old you are. You could be 80, you could be 19-20, he’d still be your friend. He’s truly going to be missed by everyone in the community and surrounding areas. He touched so many people’s lives. This, it’s a tough one for sure.”
Connor said he went to high school with Smith. In a small community like St. Paul, everyone comes together during a tragedy like this and people are there for each other. At the end of the day, Connor said, this is what Smith would have wanted.
Smith’s cousin, Reed Godfrey, said Smith only had 3 things filled out in his line-of-death duty packet: “His name and date of birth, his bank account number and instructions that if he died in the line of duty he wanted a big party with lots of beer. I think it’s safe to say we accomplished these wishes today.”
Smith, who served in the St. Paul Fire District since 2015, left behind a wife and extended family in the St. Paul area. Posts on his memorial Facebook page show Smith as a man who was cherished by his family and loved by his community.
The procession and memorial were open to public viewing. Those who wished to show their respects were encouraged to stand on sidewalks along the route.
According to the page, the bill for the funeral is being covered by the St. Paul Fire District Secretary.
St. Paul Fire District
4233 Church Ave NE
P.O. Box 1
St. Paul, Oregon 97137