Atascocita firefighter dies during training exercise


There were two firefighters training over the weekend in Beaumont when they were both hospitalized. Firefighters in Atascocita learned Monday evening one of their own did not make it.

The deceased is Captain Neal Smith, 46. Smith and another firefighter were injured Sunday afternoon while participating in training exercises at the 17th annual East Texas Area Fall "Smoke Diver" school.

They were initially treated by paramedics on scene and then transported to the hospital for heat-related injuries in separate events. The deputy chief in Atascocita says smoke divers is a very intense training session but safe; that medical teams are standing by and the firefighters are constantly monitored.

Flags are at half-staff at the small area department in memory of Captain Smith. Firefighters are also wearing black bands. Captain Smith is described as a man with immeasurable dedication.

The deputy chief says he had a huge heart and was very dedicated to the fire service but his family was first.

"I think it's important that people understand the Atascocita Fire Department is a volunteer fire department. The people here are giving their time for free," said Deputy Chief Mike Mulligan Of the Atascocita Volunteer Fire Dept. "Neal Smith went out to train to be a better firefighter yesterday for free. He didn't receive any compensation from the department. He was a volunteer and that means he died for nothing, except to learn more and to provide better service to this community."

Captain Smith is survived by his wife and two school age children.

The other firefighter in critical condition is from Georgia.

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