Gene Blaylock, a longtime firefighter who joined Rural/Metro Fire Department when it began its Knox County operations in 1977, has been named Knox County Fire Chief.

Blaylock started his career as a firefighter at Station 26 on Strawberry Plains Pike and rose to the rank of assistant fire chief. Over the course of his 36-year career, the veteran has served at five stations and received numerous promotions, culminating in his recent advancement to fire chief. The position opened when Jerry Harnish was named Rural/Metro of Tennessee Regional Manager on an interim basis last week, a title that is now permanent.

“Chief Blaylock is part of the fabric here at Rural/Metro,” Harnish said. “He’s been here since operations began, and he is a proven leader. I have full confidence that Gene will continue to provide excellent fire protection coverage to our Rural/Metro Fire Department subscribers in the county.”

In his new role, Blaylock will be responsible for protecting 216,500 residents and operating 15 fire stations in Knox County, 12 of which house paramedic engine companies. He also will oversee strategic planning for the department; disaster planning and response; budget; and oversight of the chief officers.

“When I was a college student, I took a job with Rural/Metro because it gave me time to continue going to school,” Blaylock said. “I liked firefighting so much, I decided to pursue it as a full-time career.”

Blaylock later returned to his studies at UT-Knoxville and earned a degree in business management, a decision he describes as a good one.

“My education has been a big asset, especially in the later years of my career when I’ve taken on more of an administrative role,” said Blaylock, who has numerous firefighter certifications and also is a hazardous materials specialist.

Moving into his new role as fire chief, Blaylock looks forward to working closely with the Emergency Medical Services division.

“Approximately 70 percent of our calls are medical, so cooperation with the EMS side is very important,” said Blaylock. “I have been working as a firefighter for a long time. I just want to continue working with all the men and women on the street to keep providing the quality fire service that we’ve provided for many years.”

The Crossville, Tenn., native moved to Knoxville as a child and was a member of the first freshman class at the old Doyle High School. He and his wife, Debra, currently live in South Knox County. Their son, Logan, is also a firefighter with Rural/Metro and works at Station 16 in Bluegrass.