The Santa Monica community gathered at St. Monica’s Church this week to bid farewell to Fire Engineer Dominic (Dom) Smith, who died last month following a long and courageous battle against a work-related illness.
Smith began his career in 1993 as a volunteer firefighter with the city of Poway, while at the same time working as an EMT for a private ambulance company. He joined the Oceanside Fire Department in 1994 and moved to Santa Monica Fire Department in 2001. Smith retired in March 2023, with 22 years of dedicated service to Santa Monica. He died on July 13, 2023 .
During the ceremony, friends and family remembered him for his dedication to the job, advancing his career, building lifesaving skills and making vital contributions to the department over his decades long career.
However, more personally, speaker after speaker remembered how he’d deeply touched the lives of those around him, how his dedication wasn’t just to the work but to the souls of those around him and how his sudden departure left the community poorer for his absence.
His brother said Smith just fundamentally cared about people. He cared about his family, his community and that he was called to help. Help resolve an unpleasant sound in a car engine, help a friend pull through life threatening surgery, help his family through the trauma of his own illness and help provide a pillar of strength for those around him.
His firefighter brethren said they’d lost a family member as much as a coworker.
“‘Fully involved’ is an expression we use in the fire service if you pull up to a structure fire and you have fire blowing out the windows and fire everywhere,” said SMFD Captain Brad Graham. “But that term really describes Dom to a T because he certainly was fully involved.”
Graham said he was the kind of person who always took on more than his fair share of projects including fire suppression, administration, founding the Surfline magazine, starting the department’s museum and supporting his fellow firefighters as a mentor while keeping his own skills sharp.
“It was my great fortune to have worked with Dom through the years,” he said. “After I retired, Dom and I would talk frequently, he’d keep me up to date on any current events taking place in the department and the city. He always let me know if Vinny was staying out of trouble. He always asked about my family and I really miss those calls. We will always think about the great person he truly was. Many people will say rest in peace. I say Dom, now that you’re up there, be ready to do what you do, and make it even a better place. I know you’ll be up there for the Chief of all Chiefs. And soon through your guidance, all the angels will suddenly show up to work on time at their proper assignments through your tele-heaven project.”
In an official statement, the Santa Monica Fire Department expressed its sincere appreciation for Smith’s dedication and commitment to the community in his 22 years of service in Santa Monica, and nearly 30-year career in the fire service. The department said his memory is embedded in the organization’s deep history, and his legacy will live on forever.
Former SMFD Chief Ettore Berardinelli said the praise for Smith was more than a polite ceremony.
“There’s a temptation to glorify people beyond what they were in life,” he said. “There’s no need to do that today. Dominic’s life speaks for itself and speaks to all of us through each other’s eyes. Reflecting memories of a caring, giving man, a man that was always a calming influence, and ultimate professional and a man with a smile that made you think everything was going to be okay. We hear a lot about heroes in the media. But sometimes a hero is simply that person that is there for you. That person that supports you when you need that, has the right word that offers encouragement. And also that displays the enthusiasm that will lead to some action being taken. A hero is someone you can trust implicitly. Dom was that kind of a man. Most of us have these grand ideas that we seldom act on, not Dominic. He acted on ideas and he fought to get to see them through.”
Smith is survived by his wife, Alexa, and their daughter. If you would like to make a contribution to the family, please email Michael.Linares@santamonica.gov.