LITTLE ROCK — David Smith, the Faulkner County ranger who has spent more than three decades with the Arkansas Forestry Commission, retired at the end of April.
Smith came to the Forestry Commission in August 1978 after working for a couple of years in the Ouachita District of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. His first 22 years with the Commission were spent at Poison Springs State Forest outside of Camden starting as a Forest Technician I. In 1985, he was promoted to State Forest Foreman. His duties included selectively marking and estimating timber, prescribed burning, reforestation, chemical site preparation, boundary line marking, trail maintenance and firefighting duties.
"I was in intensive forestry management," Smith said. "Fire suppression was our secondary mission."
In July of 2000 he transferred to Faulkner County and quickly changed gears to be a firefighter first.
"It was a big year for fire. I got broken in real well," Smith said. "But it was nothing compared to as bad as it was this last summer."
During his 12 years working out of the Greenbrier office, Faulkner county saw more than 330 wildfires. Smith was incident commander on 195 of those, in additon to 17 fires in other counties.
Since 2000, Smith has fought a total of 355 fires that covered more than 7,000 acres.
The community he worked with was something that kept him coming back through all the long hours, hot weather and constant wildfires.
"It’s like a brotherhood working with these people. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, working in forestry. I’ve had good supervisors, good people to work with. You just can’t beat that." he said. "The people who do this work are a different class of people, I promise you."
Smith was recognized as the Arkansas Forestry Commission’s Support Staff Employee of the Year in 1997, and was named the District 7 Employee of the Year in 2003. Smith resides in Conway with his wife Marylen. They have two children and three grandchildren.