Val Smith; Retired County Fire Battalion Chief

Val Smith, a retired battalion chief with the Ventura County Fire Department, died Friday at Simi Valley Hospital after suffering an aortic aneurysm four days earlier. He was 94.

Smith was born Dec. 20, 1903. He was hired by the County Fire Department in 1940 and retired in 1966.

Smith served as the first fire captain at Simi Valley’s Station 41 on Los Angeles Avenue when it opened in 1956, living in a house to the rear of the station with his station dispatcher wife, Meryle, and three daughters.

In those days, families lived with the fire captain at the station because they were often on duty for a week.


The first week the station opened, Santa Ana winds fueled wildfires in the Simi hills, Box Canyon and near Moorpark. The winds were so strong they blew off the station’s roof, Smith recalled in 1995, as he watched the station being torn down.

“It’s sad to see it go, but everything has its time,” he told The Times.

County fire officials described Smith as a respected man who kept in touch with many current firefighters.

His wife died in 1990.


Survivors include his sister, Ethel Pearl Rounds of Santa Paula; daughters Betty Gene Bateman and Louise Valene Williams of Simi Valley and Dorothy Marie Havens of Yakima, Wash.; as well as 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

Memorial services are scheduled for 10 a.m. today at Simi Valley Community Church, 2000 Royal Ave. Graveside services will follow at Pierce Brothers Cemetery in Santa Paula.