Community mourns Fire Chief’s passing

A town is left mourning the loss of a beloved fire chief.

On Thursday, Bailey Switch Fire Chief Wendell “Willie” Smith was found deceased at his home from what authorities believe are natural causes.

News of Smith’s passing spread quickly after it was mentioned at Thursday’s City Council meeting he had passed away. Soon after, his Facebook timeline was flooded with comments of thoughts and prayers for Smith’s loved ones and fellow firefighters he left behind.

“Wendell served as Chief with integrity, honor and distinction and will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him,” said Bailey Switch Volunteer Fire Department President Adam Townsley.

Smith started in fire service in 2008 with Little Poplar Creek Fire Department. Currently, he served with Bailey Switch Fire Department, Little Poplar Creek Fire Department and East Knox Fire Department.

In January 2014, Smith became chief of the Bailey Switch Fire Department with one goal in mind – progress. According to Townsley, it was no secret that Smith reached his goal, and said he “turned Bailey Switch into one of the finest departments in the county.”

Sentiments rang the same from everyone contacted for this story. “He was a great guy… he will be missed,” said Sheriff Mike Smith.

Judge-Executive J.M. Hall echoed other’s responses. “He was a good guy,” Hall said Thursday night.

“The Bailey Switch Fire Department is asking for prayers most of all for his Daughter and his family, Co-workers and the community,” said Townsley.

Smith was also in the race for District 4 Constable in the May 22 primary.

Arrangements are pending for Smith’s funeral. This story will be updated as those are made public.

Editor’s note: Willie’s passing is a tremendous shock to us here at the Advocate. He was a great help and friend to us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and fellow first responders.