Truckee firefighter injured on job is grateful for help
When more than 800 pounds of ceiling material came crashing down on Greg Smith, he had no idea how it would affect his life.
Smith, a captain with the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, was injured while fighting a house fire in Tahoe Vista on Nov. 1 when the ceiling caved in on him. Although the two broken bones in his leg will keep Smith away from his job for approximately 20 weeks, it’s the community’s help – not the injury – that has had the most tremendous impact on his life, Smith says.
“Somebody shows up everyday with a meal,” he said in an interview in his Truckee home Monday, one month after the accident. “They’re coming until later this week … The fire service is known for taking care of their own, but this has been unbelievable.”
In addition to the daily offerings of food, Smith’s colleagues at North Tahoe Fire and other local fire and law enforcement agencies visit Smith at home, carry him down the flight of stairs outside of his house when he needs to go somewhere and give him rides to his physical therapy appointments.
Smith was in the midst of remodeling his home when the accident occurred, and someone at the department arranged for a roofer to install temporary guttering. The roofer did the work pro bono.
With four children at home and his wife, Diana Vincent, owning a business, Smith and his family have needed all the help they can get.
“We kind of have a full plate in life without this (the injury),” he said.
Smith noted that the number of people who have helped him and his family are too numerous to name, but he said that Capt. Scott Sedgwick of North Tahoe Fire was especially helpful.
Truckee Fire Protection District Capt. Rick Allison, Smith said, has also provided tremendous assistance.
“We always go out to help our fellow firefighters,” Allison said. “Even if they’re with different fire districts, it doesn’t matter.”
Smith’s wife has also received a lot of support from her husband’s colleagues since the accident. Immediately after the accident, a paramedic from the department was assigned to help Vincent while she was with Smith at the hospital.
“I have people dropping by at work constantly offering help,” said Vincent, who owns High Camp Home in Truckee. “I don’t think you pick up on how tight a community is until something like this. It’s incredible.”
Vincent said the level of thoughtfulness has been considerable, considering the extent of her husband’s injury.
“Not to belittle what he’s been through, but it could have been a lot worse,” she said.
Smith was injured when roughly 800 to 1,000 pounds ceiling material crashed down on him while fighting the Tahoe Vista house fire. Fortunately, Smith was bent at a 90-degree angle at the waist. If he had been standing, he said, his injuries could have been a lot worse.
“I felt it, but I didn’t see it,” he said of the impact. “I knew right away what had happened. I’ve seen people’s legs bend the wrong way before, it’s just never happened to me.”
Smith had to be dragged out from under the ceiling material and out of the house by other firefighters, and he suffered a lot of tissue trauma. He broke two bones in five places. Later on in the day, Smith underwent surgery and a rod was placed in his leg.
But it was what followed the accident that has changed Smith’s life the most, and he only hopes he can return the favor one day.
“Next time someone has a hard time in their life, I’d be one of the first guys to step forward and help, where before I would’ve just thrown my name in a hat.”
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