Nova Scotia

Firefighter 'blown away' by support after losing part of his leg

If you've had an emergency near Leicester, in Nova Scotia's Cumberland County, over the last few decades, chances are good that Jimmy Smith came to your rescue. But after he lost part of his leg while cutting wood, he's the one needing help.

Jimmy Smith is a long-time volunteer with a northern N.S. fire department, but now he's the one needing help

Jimmy Smith was glad to get out of the Halifax hospital and head home this week. (Donna Jackson)

If you've had an emergency near Leicester, in Nova Scotia's Cumberland County, over the last few decades, chances are good that Jimmy Smith came to your rescue. 

Over the last 26 years, he's answered hundreds of calls as a volunteer firefighter with the Leicester Volunteer Fire Department.

But an awful accident recently left him fighting for his life. Smith was cutting wood to warm his home over the winter on Sept. 27. 

"By fluke, the wood chipper got my leg caught and that was it," he said. "I came back out and fell into the wood pile. Tried to call and my phone fell into the wood pile."

He was alone. "I would have been dead down there because blood was flying everywhere," Smith said. "I couldn't move."

But his nephews Jonah and Jaden Chapman and their friend Justin Keating were working in a nearby field and heard his cries for help. One used a belt to make a tourniquet while the other ran to call for help. 

Before Smith even got out of hospital this month, his friends and fellow firefighters had raised $10,000 and built him a wheelchair ramp so he can get into his home. (Donna Jackson)

The first emergency responder on the scene was his neighbour and fellow firefighter Garry Lowther. He helped stabilize Smith until the ambulance arrived. 

"It would have been a different situation if the boys hadn't been there," Lowther said. 

Smith went to hospital and learned he'd lost most of his right leg. He can't drive now, can't use the stairs, and couldn't even get in the front door of his house. 

'He's the ideal firefighter'

Clayton Brooks is the fire chief of the Leicester Volunteer Fire Department.  

"Jimmy is a 26-year member of our department. He's a very hard worker. He's always there to respond. He always stays until the last job is done," he said. "He's the ideal firefighter." 

Smith responded to hundreds of fires and medical emergencies over the decades. Buildings, wildfires, car fires — everything. 

Brooks said Smith's good work doesn't stop when the fire's out.

"He would go door to door and introduce himself to new members of the community. When we moved here seven years ago, he was the second person we met," Brooks said. 

Smith never misses a Good Friday pancake supper in the community. (Donna Jackson)

Through donations, online auctions, a horse-pull contest and a 50/50 draw, the community has already raised more than $10,600 to help Smith. Other volunteer fire services have pitched in, too. 

"We were amazed at the level of support we have seen, not just from locals here, but people from all across Nova Scotia," Brooks said.

Brooks said they've installed a new heat pump in Smith's home and are working on a furnace, and they also built a wheelchair ramp so he can get inside without help. They also got him a scooter.

Smith was released from a Halifax hospital this week.

"I think he's blown away by the support. He's got a lot of adjustments to do in the next little while, but he knows he's got the community and his fire department behind him to support him every step of the way," Brooks said. 

"As firefighters, we're predisposed to helping people in need. This is especially true when it's one of our own in need. Being in the fire service for us is like a second family. For all the giving he has done, we felt the least we could do is give back to him in his time of need."

Fire chief Clayton Brooks said Smith knows the entire fire department has his back as he recovers from his brutal injury. (Clayton Brooks )

Smith plans to get a prosthetic leg eventually, but his firefighting days are behind him. "I'm getting too old for it now," the 53-year-old said with a laugh.

"Every time somebody gave something, I pretty near cried. I thank everyone who helped after all this happened to me."

He also urged people to get their COVID-19 vaccines to make things safer for first responders, like the ones who saved his life. 


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