First African American firefighter in Henderson honored on 80th birthday

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — In recognition of Joe Smith Jr.’s heroic service, the Henderson Fire Department honored the former Basic Magnesium Industrial (BMI) firefighter and Nevada test site fire captain on Monday, Nov. 15.

Smith first began his historic 17-year tenure with BMI in 1966, where he served as its first and only African American firefighter and paramedic.

While serving Smith provided aid as he fought to save lives during the MGM fire in 1980.

When BMI closed in 1983, Smith continued to serve as a firefighter with the Nevada Test Site. His leadership during critical incidents such as the explosions at Apex and Titanium Metals Corp. led to his promotion to captain.

 At the request of U.S. Congressman Steven Horsford, the American flag was flown over the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2021, in honor of Smith’s heroic service as the first African American firefighter in the City of Henderson.

On Monday, Henderson Fire Department Chief Shawn White presented Smith with a special edition honorary fire helmet on his 80th birthday at the department’s training center.

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