Retired fire chief loses battle with cancer |

Retired fire chief loses battle with cancer

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

A former chief of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department died last week after battling cancer.

Marv Smiley, chief from 1969 to 1980, died Wednesday at the age of 78 in Brentwood, Calif. He moved there after living at South Shore for 23 years.

“He was always straightforward,” Fire Chief Mike Chandler said. “You didn’t always like his answers, but he made quick decisions and always made good decisions.”

Smiley was the second chief of the fire department, which formed in 1966 after it broke from the Lake Valley Fire Protection District.

He began his career as a firefighter in 1947 as a volunteer at the Stockton Fire Department. In 1957, Smiley moved to Tahoe so his two young children could experience a better school environment.

Hired as a firefighter at Lake Valley in 1958, Smiley was promoted to assistant chief before becoming chief of the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department.

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Chandler said it was Smiley who promoted him from firefighter to engineer. He last spoke to Smiley in the fall, when Smiley called to congratulate him on being appointed chief.

“Marv had Hodgkin’s disease, cancer, prior to his retirement,” Chandler said. “He fought it and beat it for quite some time. He called me and said he was happy to see we created the fire chief position again and was happy I got the job.”

— Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at