Pandemic Profile: Duluth fire captain Dan Smith

If you’d like to share how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your life, professionally and/or personally, email News Tribune multimedia producer Samantha Erkkila at

Captain Dan Smith still .jpg
Captain Dan Smith of the Duluth Fire Department describes how he is handling the COVID-19 pandemic during a recent interview on Zoom. (Samantha Erkkila /

Captain Dan Smith of the Duluth Fire Department is stationed at headquarters in downtown Duluth. The captain of the rescue squad, Smith has a wife and two children, ages 11 and 5, at home.

He was born and raised in Duluth, moved away for about 6 years, and returned to the shores of Lake Superior in 2005.

What have been some of the biggest changes at the fire department since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic?

“The biggest changes I think have been, we have really tried to limit our interaction with shifts. When we are outgoing and incoming we do our best to maintain social distancing. And even in our living quarters. So we’ve changed the way we eat. We’ve changed the way we do our exchange of information at shift change. So we are really trying to do our best even though we live with each other while we are here for 24 hours to maintain those best practices as dictated by the CDC.

“Other changes, just the amount of time it takes to get our day going with disinfecting. We clean the station when it comes to daily chores, you know trash, bathrooms, stuff like that. And now we disinfect everything we touch from the firetrucks to the garage door openers to our portable radios and the telephones. So there are a lot more procedures there. Just like when we respond on calls we’ve got additional protocols and personal protective equipment that we don.”

How have you been feeling through all of this?

“Well, the sun is shining. The days are getting longer. The weather is getting warmer so it’s easier to get outside. You know it is what it is. It is what we’ve got and it's the challenge that we have today. We have the tools to deal with it right now, which is a good thing. And we feel pretty fortunate we’ve been able to secure PPE.”


How are your children adjusting to distance learning?

“They do a good job. It’s challenging. It’s a change. I think everybody is somewhat getting used to it and coping at the same time. There is an age spread between them so they get along pretty well and support each other. Most days.”

How has it affected your personal life with family members and friends outside of your home?

“I think social media is a blessing at this point. We’ve been using Zoom as well as Facetime and Marco Polo and just different social media platforms to communicate with friends. We did have a cruise planned at the beginning of this whole thing in March and we were able to cancel that. My wife is a healthcare provider. So she also is still working. So we’ve had to balance that out and we have similar practices. And that I think makes it a little bit easier. We both get it. We both understand the hazards, the dangers. What it means to be clean and what it means to wear our PPE and not bring anything home to our kids.”

What would you like the community to know about how to stay safe during this time?

“I think we all hear it on a daily basis that if we wash our hands and don’t touch our face we're going to be in a much better place or it significantly reduces our chances of contracting the virus. So I’m just trying to do my best there. It’s definitely here in Duluth and we’ve got to do our best to keep it from spreading by following the guidelines of the CDC.”

If you’d like to share how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your life, professionally and/or personally, email News Tribune multimedia producer Samantha Erkkila at

Samantha Erkkila is a former digital content producer for the Duluth News Tribune.
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