Reporter recalls memories of fire marshal

Published on Wednesday, 9 April 2014 00:15 - Written by Kenneth Dean,

This is for those of you who knew Smith County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton, who was laid to rest on Monday.

I met Jim for the first time at a wildfire early in my career, and anyone who knows me knows I do not sit on the sidelines. I want in the thick of things.

So I asked Jim if I could get a firsthand look at what the firefighters were battling. He did not hesitate, but said “jump in the truck.” We went zooming across this field to a wooded area where the fire was being fought.

“I think there is something on the back passenger side tire. Will you take a look?” he said.

So I got out. Ha! Little did I know he was going to drive off and leave me.

An hour later when I walked out, covered in ash, sweat and reeking of smoke, Jim was laughing and could barely manage to ask if I got all of the photos I wanted.

Jim and the rest of his office and I developed a great rapport throughout the years, and many times I have jumped on the back of a fire truck and gone into the fire with them. During the wildfires of 2011, I was chased up a tree by a pack of wild hogs fleeing a fire, but still did a live phone-in to CBS19. I was worried as the fire got closer, but the hogs didn’t wait around long and took off, allowing me to escape.

Jim laughed so hard, and for several months he would say “sooey” every time he saw me.

But for all of his jokes, when it came right down to it, I knew I would get answers from Jim.

However, if you ever made the mistake of just asking Jim, “What happened?” (meaning the cause) at a fire scene, he would just smile and say in an exaggerated drawl, “Well, there was a fire, and now it’s out.”

Thanks for your service, Jim.

Smith County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton, 65, died last week after a lengthy battle with cancer. A former Marine who served in Vietnam, he was laid to rest Monday with full military and departmental honors.