The Rural/Metro graduating class.

The Rural/Metro graduating class.

By Dan Andrews

Over the course of two nights, fifty individuals achieved the honor to wear the badge that allows them to be called a firefighter.  On Tuesday, December 8, eighteen members of the Rural Metro firefighter training class took their oath at the Kerbela Shrine Temple in Knoxville. The administration of oath was given by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

On Wednesday, December 9, thirty-two individuals took the oath and are now sworn members of the Knoxville Fire Department.  The Honorable Judge Rosson administered the oath at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium.

According to a Harris poll conducted in 2014, firefighting ranked as the third most prestigious job in America. Furthermore in a global 2009 poll, firefighting ranked as the number one most trusted profession in the world. To get a better understanding of what it means to be a firefighter, earlier this year this reporter attended and graduated from the Knoxville Fire Department Citizen Fire Academy. The course gave an overview of the rapidly changing role of the firefighting profession.

Training is continuous. All Knoxville Fire Department members are cross-trained in emergency medical support. The level of training is progressive and ongoing.  A KFD firefighter must maintain a minimum qualification of EMT. However, many go on to A-EMT, and for a select few Paramedic. Once a firefighter achieves a medical rank, they must continually take refresher courses.

To receive a promotion, a firefighter must pass numerous tests involving fire science that include a strong amount of chemistry.

In addition to the mental preparation, firefighters must also be continually training physically due to the demands of the job. While many people have the vision of a firefighter dashing into a burning building, there is way more physicality than that. For example performing CPR for over twenty minutes while en route to a hospital and then getting a call for a working fire immediately after arriving at the hospital.

Training is essential. Recently, in the State of Tennessee, the requirements to be a firefighter have gone down to as low as 64 hours to attract more volunteers. However during my interviews with both fire chiefs, neither have any plans to lower the level of training. Rural/Metro Fire Chief Jerry Harnish and City of Knoxville Fire Chief Stan Sharp both made it abundantly clear the importance of training and remaining prepared to deal with any emergency situation.

During my short time in the CFA, the most important lesson that I learned was from Captain DJ Corcoran. Fire discriminates against nobody. When a 911 call comes in with the announcement “working fire victims trapped, smoke showing.” As the bravest gear up, and prepare to place their lives on the line for a stranger, it is at that time, where the long hours of training comes into play. There are no shortcuts. In a working fire, there are “no do overs” or “second chances.” Fire does not discriminate who it harms. A firefighter can be a 20-year veteran or a new member who got sworn in last week. One careless mistake can get the firefighter, the crew, and the victim, severely hurt, burned, or possibly killed.

That is why so much pride goes into a graduating class. The high standard which these brave firefighters have achieved. As Chief Harnish stated, “We are very proud of the firefighters that graduated tonight. We know how arduous the training experience is.”