History’s Corner – May 2015

Chief “Smokey” Dyer
Chief “Smokey” Dyer

In my last newsletter article, I started with the Dexter Fire Department and the leadership of that fine organization to highlight individuals who have provided outstanding service to their community and the State of Missouri.

I know of no better way of extending that trend than to shine the spotlight on a dear friend that has spent his entire life in the service of his fellow man. His dedication to the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri is illustrated by the number of times he has worked at the State Fair Fire Department and had appeared on convention programs as a keynote speaker at banquets and other functions of our state association.

His passion to share his experience and knowledge with others can be seen by reviewing the countless programs conducted by the University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute over the last forty years with his name at the top of the list as and expert instructor. I don’t throw around the title “expert” easily but when a person has gone to the effort to acquire an Associate Degree; a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree, graduating from the University of Missouri, I would say the term expert is fitting. That “book learnin”, along with experience as a U.S. Navy officer, Deputy State Fire Marshal and a Fire Chief a couple of time over, makes him a true expert in my book.

Bill Westhoff and “Smokey” Dyer at the opening of Fireman’s Landing at Silver Dollar City.
Bill Westhoff and “Smokey” Dyer at the opening of Fireman’s Landing at Silver Dollar City.

Some of my first interactions with “Smokey” took place when I served as the Fire Chief at the Missouri State Fair and was the Director of the Fire and Rescue Training Institute at the University of Missouri. I was around when he was courting Julie when they met while “Smokey” was doing “fire inspections” on the fairgrounds. It was apparent to me that he was inspecting more that just buildings for fire hazards when he was making his rounds. The Dyer’s were united in marriage in 1969. It seems to me that for the last forty years or so, that inspection proved to be very productive.

During those happy years, in the late 60’s and 70’s, I was also the Fire Chief of the newly formed Boone County Fire District in Columbia and my wife and I managed an apartment complex with mostly college students as occupants.

A newly married couple that lived directly across the hall from the office/managers apartment was “Smokey” and Julie Dyer. Of course Rich was a member of the firefighting staff of the Boone County Fire District. Our kids were small and they spent as much time across the hall as they did in our apartment, because Julie kept a candy bowl on her coffee table.

These were the “good ole days” of the Boone County Fire District when communications consisted of a fire phone circuit that rang a constant ring on a phone in several locations and radio dispatching was done on a CB radio. Of course there was a “fire phone” in the office of the apartment complex, so its easy to go across the hall and bang on the door at all hours to get our resident firefighter up to go on calls.

I could write several pages of experiences that we have shared over the years since then, but it would end up being a book. In place of that, I will do a brief accounting of his accomplishments over the years.

Chief “Smokey” Dyer and his grand-kids at the opening of Fireman’s Landing at Silver Dollar City.
Chief “Smokey” Dyer and his grand-kids at the opening of Fireman’s Landing at Silver Dollar City.


  • Appointed as the first Junior Assistant Fire Chief of the Buckner Fire Department while in grade school by the Mayor of Buckner.
  • Selected as the “Fire Marshal” at Missouri Boys State at age 15 and given the title “Smokey”.
  • Appointed the first Deputy State Fire Marshal of the newly formed State fire Marshal’s office by Fire Marshal Bob Morrison.
  • Served his county in the United States Navy.
  • Past President of the International Association of Fire Chief’s
  • Chief of the Lee’s Summit Fire Department for 13 years.
  • Appointed the Chief of the Kansas City Fire Department by City Manager Robert Collins in October of 2000.
  • Still Teaching for the Missouri Fire and Rescue Institute after over thirty years of service.

The list of his awards and achievements would fill a room if we listed them all. The most recent, of course, was the Phil Sayer Lifetime Achievement Award given to “Smokey” at the convention at Lake of the Ozarks. It was a great honor for me to be part of the crew that presented the award to him. Enjoy your grand-kid’s, my friend!