Fire Chief Tim Smith Stars in Show about Moonshiners in Virginia

Have you seen the show “Moonshiners” on the Discovery Channel yet?

There is also quite a discussion going on over at where the original post about the show was published. Check it out here.

Did you know that the lead character, Tim Smith, is also a Fire Chief? That is right. He is the Fire Chief of the Climax Volunteer Fire Department in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. That is about an hour from where I live.

From what I have seen on Facebook, it seems as though there are many people who think that Tim is running some huge illegal moonshine operation and was dumb enough to invite cameras behind the scenes…and then invite the cops as well. That isn’t the case at all. The show is about moonshining, the history, tradition, heritage, and everything else.

I originally put together a short article on titled “Virginia Fire Chief Finds Fame on Discovery Channel’s New Show Moonshiners“. I have known about the department due to my role as editor of, but have never visited the department. Most recently, I saw their new tanker at the funeral for two Rocky Mount, VA LODD’s last year (Franklin County). The link above also has related local news coverage of the show and Tim.

Tim’s wife Shelby is also a member of the department and his son JT hopes to become a junior firefighter in the future. JT is also a big part of the show Moonshiners.

You can read more about Tim Smith on his site

Photo from the Discovery Channel

You have to realize that in Southwestern Virginia and down into North Carolina and Tennessee, moonshine has a heritage that has made the area what it is today. You can read more about moonshine on Wikipedia there is also a lot of information on the distilling of moonshine here.

Franklin County, Virginia is known as the Moonshine Capital of the World. That is where I get my moonshine from!

As far as I can tell, it seems as though there is a huge misunderstanding which comes from the drama of the television show and what is really happening. While I didn’t bug Tim with a bunch of questions I probably know the answers to already, I will offer this:


“Nobody in the whole series was actually making any liquor, we wouldn’t allow that. If we knew somebody was making liquor they would have been in the next episode in handcuffs,” said Jesse Tate.

After writing the article on, I received a phone call from Tim.

Tim can’t disclose everything or answer every question because he is under contractual obligation with the Discovery Channel. However, I was able to ask some questions and get some answers.

Tim Smith has been the Fire Chief for Climax since 2004. He was just re-elected in November of this year. He is a mechanic, maintenance man to be exact, by trade and that is what pays the bills. He works 60 hours a week. His role at the fire department is voluntary. Tim also spent 6 years in the United States Army.

Tim tells me that the show “Moonshiners” is entertainment. The show, like all the other shows on tv, is meant to attract and audience. The show is made up of real people and maybe some added drama. The show was actually filmed a year ago in Pittsylvania, Virginia. Tim would like this to say …Most of the show was filmed in Pittsylvania County, Virginia He is an expert on the heritage of moonshine and its production.

He assures me the show is not about Police or the Fire Department it is about moonshining with a storyline.

Chief Tim Smith is in the center of the picture surrounded by other members of the Climax VFD. Picture courtesy of the Climax VFD.

However, he also tells me he has a keen belief that the shows prosperity could potentially benefit his fire department. For example, the Climax VFD is in dire need of an ambulance and/or 1st responder vehicle. The previous ambulance they had was donated by the Alta Vista Rescue Squad (also in Virginia). The engine blew a head gasket while sitting in the apparatus bay. They had the truck repaired only to have the engine lock up on them soon after. The fix would have cost the department around $9000, money they simply don’t have so they had to give the truck to the repair shop.

He told me they have applied for a grant of up to $20,000 to potentially buy a used unit, but they have not received word on the approval of the grant yet.

In the meantime, they have re-purposed their brush truck as a 1st responder vehicle and have gotten the applicable State EMS licenses for the vehicle.

The show Moonshiners is a 6 episode series on the Discovery Channel. Currently, there are no plans of a second season. However, with 3.2 million viewers you just never know!

Tim assures me that the community reaction to the show has been very positive.

As for the cynics, Tim adds “Maybe the same questions would be asked if a fire chief was found growing marijuana in the state of California. Is it Legal or Il-legal, to do that on a tv show? Example: Weed Wars.”

Captain Willie Wines Jr. and I are planning on heading down to visit with Chief Tim Smith and other members of the Climax VFD in the near future.