He did it again. He saved another person from flames and maybe death. And once again, he just happened to be at the right place at the right time. And for the second time the Rotary Club of Farragut presented its prestigious “Service Above Self” award to Master Firefighter Kevin D. Baldwin of the Knoxville Fire Department.
This is the 14th time the club has presented this award to a member of the emergency services profession for going above and beyond the call of duty in serving our community. It is the first time someone has been honored twice.
Baldwin, 53, a second-generation KFD firefighter who is a Knoxville native, was on light duty recovering from a second shoulder surgery last year and was performing other duties in April 2017 when he saw the rear part of an 18-wheeler tractor cab on fire. The truck’s driver was unaware of the flames as he drove down Knott Road between the gasoline/fuel tank farms off Middlebrook Pike. It was 8 o’clock on that April 6 Friday morning.
“I was behind the truck and suddenly saw all of these flames coming from the rear of the cab and under it and I sped up and started waving my hands at the driver and blowing my horn,” he recalled. “I finally pulled in front of him and forced him to stop.”
Baldwin was in his personal car, not a KPD vehicle. He was not wearing any fire gear and was on the way to present a program at Sequoyah Elementary School.
Once he was out of his car and walking toward the truck, the entire cab burst into flames. With no concern for himself and a bum shoulder, he rushed to the truck’s cab and jumped up on it and pulled the driver out of the truck and dragged him a safe distance away, knowing an explosion could happen at any moment. The smoke had overcome the driver.
Baldwin started giving the driver medical attention and while doing so he managed to call E-911 dispatch so the cavalry could come as quickly as possible to stop the flames from reaching the tanker. Unbeknownst to Baldwin, the tanker was hauling 8,500 gallons of Grade 1 jet fuel.
“Station 17 responded in about five minutes but it seemed like it took an hour for them to get there,” he said. “I had a lot going on.”
I asked him how he did it.
“I did what I was trained to do and I have confidence in our training.
“When we’re called on we’ve got to step up and do our job,” he said. “It’s great to get an award from Rotary, but a lot of things happen like this … our guys save lives every day and no one hears much about it. But it happens all the time. I give God all the credit for helping me get through this and do these things.”
Just as we have honored him, this humble hero was honored by the KFD as its 2017 Firefighter of the Year. He is an 18-year veteran of the department and works out of the Bearden Fire Station 18 on Weisgarber Road. His late father, Calvin, was also a KPD firefighter and also was named Firefighter of the Year once, the first time a father-son have both honored.
KFD Capt. D.J. Corcoran introduced Baldwin again at the club’s July 11 meeting, saying: “This guy is a magnet for things that happen. The other guys are scared to be around him sometimes.”
Corcoran also noted that had that tanker truck exploded, it could have killed people and started a horrible fire at the tank farm. Baldwin agreed.
Farragut Rotary also honored Baldwin in 2013 with the same award and he was KFD’s Firefighter of the Year then. In January 2013, he was part of the KFD team that responded to a house fire on Circle Hill Drive. Engine 18 firefighters spoke with the dazed homeowner, who finally realized that her 88-year-old mother was still inside the burning home. Baldwin immediately headed back into the burning home and the woman was in the house’s back bedroom.
“MFF Baldwin, disregarding his own safety, immediately went into the home, which at this time was filled with smoke, and had active fire in the walls and attic,” Corcoran wrote in his nomination form in 2013. “He located the lady and carried her safely to the front porch.” The woman was treated for smoke inhalation and survived.
His left-shoulder injury happened while he was helping carry a very heavy man to safety from a house fire in February 2016. He had surgery and went through extended physical therapy. After his shoulder healed, his station responded to a car accident and he was working to pull a woman from the car and reinjured the shoulder. He then developed what is called “frozen shoulder” and that required the second surgery.
“I went 16 years with no injuries and all of a sudden I’ve had two injuries in a two-year span,” he said.
Baldwin has two sons and both are in emergency services. One is a 911 supervisor in Osceola County, Florida, and his other is a guard at the Morgan County Correctional Center.
In addition to the plaque, Baldwin and his wife, Emma, were presented with a $100 gift certificate from restaurant owner Deron Little to either Season’s Cafe and Grille or Kitchen 919.
“I am very honored to accept this award and it makes you really proud to do your job,” he said. “It’s what we all do as firefighters.”