Close-knit St. Paul community lines streets for procession of firefighter Austin Smith

Hundreds gather in St. Paul to watch the procession honoring a local fallen firefighter
Hundreds gather in St. Paul to watch the procession honoring a local fallen firefighter
Published: Feb. 12, 2022 at 6:33 PM PST
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ST. PAUL, Ore. (KPTV) – The St. Paul Fire District led the procession of hundreds of fire trucks and first responder rigs down Church Avenue.

The line included St. Paul’s volunteer firefighters minus one. They were missing Austin Smith, who died while fighting a fire on Feb. 3.

It was a dignified salute to the homegrown boy. It was hard to find anyone who lined the streets who didn’t know either Smith or the Smith family, which has been in St. Paul for generations.

Christy Pruitt told FOX 12 her family knew the parents, grandparents and uncle of Smith.

“I was born and raised in St. Paul,” Pruitt said. “My parents live here, have a farm back here. I felt moved to come back home to express my condolences to the family.”

Somehow a procession of almost 400 vehicles could move through a small Oregon town with barely any noise. There was hardly a whisper.

Dogs didn’t bark, babies didn’t cry as this unending line of flashing lights made its way slowly down the main part of town. They came to honor a man so many knew.

“(Smith) was just an amazing man,” Kelsey Kelly said. “He was my brother-in-law’s best friend. He was always just such a nice guy, and our kids knew him a little bit. We thought, ‘We want to come and honor him.’”

The Kelly family was there with their young daughters. Josh Kelly’s brother was in the procession because Smith was his best friend.

“My brother was really close to (Smith),” Josh Kelly said. “We knew it would be important to him, especially to bring our daughters to see.”

It seemed more important to just be there for a solemn farewell to a local firefighter who sacrificed his life fighting fire. It was a time to thank good neighbors and volunteer public servants like Smith.

“Sad but grateful for what the fire department has done throughout the years,” Pruitt said.

On the procession route there were young boys saluting and cowboys held their hats over their hearts.