Detroit firefighter dies in his sleep on duty

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A Detroit firefighter and longtime veteran died last night while on duty.

Sgt. Vince Smith, a 24-year veteran with Detroit Fire died in his sleep at Engine 48, on Fort St near Marathon Oil refinery.  Smith was assigned to DFD Ladder 13 but he was pulling a duty shift overnight at Engine 48.

"He had a special way that he saw life," said Battalion Chief Steve Kirschner. "And it was catchy to people around him."

Smith's smile was contagious. At an often thankless job, he kept his buddies' spirits up, anyway he could.

"He jumped off the fire truck threw off his coat in the middle of the street and started singing at the top of his lungs," Kirschner said. "We all just broke out laughing. But that was his personality."

Smith served the city of Detroit, spending many nights away from his wife and five sons, often sleeping fire houses, ready to put his life on the line for strangers at a moment's notice.

"The vulnerability of life and the stresses of this job and the toll it takes on our bodies and on our spirit," said Kirschner, "It's difficult."

His friends, who called him Vinny, didn't think anything of it when he turned in early for the night Wednesday, not feeling well. He was found the next morning in his recliner, his bible and glasses next to him on the table.

"I believe he was reading his Bible and getting his head and spirit together before bed," Kirschner said. "And I believe that's when things happened."

Smith gave his life to the safety and betterment of Detroit, a sacrifice his family members at home and on duty, will never forget.

"You think about the family, his boys, his wife, they're going to be hit the hardest."