Donald Ray Smith was the dozer operator for the Carr Fire in Redding, California. To his friends and family, he is known as Dad, Grandpa, “Donald Ray” to some and “DR” to others. On July 23, he was called to Redding to help make fire lines around houses and outlying areas and to assist the hotshots.
Donald Ray Smith was born in Blanchard, Oklahoma, to Cleo and Lily Smith, on June 3, 1936. He was preceded in death by a brother, Wesley Smith. He is survived by five daughters, Terry Stewart, Donna Rossborough, Debbie Pruitt, Connie VanDorien, and Angela Caudel; his former wife, Angie Smith; 15 grandchildren, and 28 great-grandchildren.
When he was growing up, his father worked the pipeline that ran from coast to coast, and they moved a lot. The family wound up in McCloud, California, where Don graduated from high school and met his future wife. After 10 years in McCloud, they moved to Warren, Arkansas, where Don built a house and settled down raising cattle and chickens. He did not have a degree in architecture, but he would imagine what a house should be, and he was able to let that imagination go from his mind to his hand to a pencil; before long he would have a blueprint made.
In the 1970s we moved back to California, where he started operating heavy equipment. In 2000, he signed up with CAL Fire to work the fire lines on his dozer and also ran his own water truck. He worked with CAL Fire for 18 years, right up until the day he passed away.
Dad loved being around family and camping and fishing. His dream weekend was to take the family on the pontoon boat that he had rebuilt and take us down the Delta for a weekend fishing trip, a trip planned for late fall of 2018. He was the type of man that would not want you to feel sorry for him. He was prideful, understanding, and always there to help by lending a hand, heart, or just to listen.
We would sit in the yard around a fire pit for hours and just talk and laugh; boy, did we laugh! He loved to tell stories about growing up, our grandparents, our mom and him going to the same school, and all the mischief they would get into. We always told him he needed to write these stories down. He always said he would, but he never got around to it. He loved to stay busy and refused to retire even at age 82. He was a hardworking man and loved his family, and he will be missed. He is truly our hero.
Love and Miss you Dad. I think of you every day.– Connie VanDorien