Five years ago, Brian Pratt thought he was dead. The Rural Metro firefighter was part of the team battling a serious blaze at a home on South Creek Road near Maryville Pike. Pratt climbed a ladder onto what was a stable gable roof to break a window so water could get into the home.
Bricks began falling. The roof was shaking. Down went the roof as did Pratt, 12 feet to the ground with bricks landing on top of him. “I thought I was dead,” he says. “That’s the most frightening time in my career.” Here is a video of the roof coming down.
He was rushed to UT Medical Center’s emergency room with a broken talus, the bone that connects the foot and the ankle, torn ligaments and tendons in the foot, three broken ribs, a thumb that was split from top to bottom down the middle and bruises from head to toe. “Worst of all it hurt my feelings,” he says. He was sidelined for eight months. “I have aches and pains from that I will never get over.”
There’s something special about a home-grown guy staying in Knox County, working with the family while rearing a family, and spending more than half his life in emergency services work for his community. He is a rare breed.
Sept. 15 marks Pratt’s 29th anniversary as a paramedic and firefighter with Rural Metro. In the first responder/emergency service business, he brings a huge skillset to the job.
For the last two years he has worked out of Station 26 on Strawberry Plains Pike with his partner, Jason Davis. Prior to that he and Davis spent 12 years at Station 27 in the Forks of the River. Pratt grew up on Ruggles Ferry Pike, was schooled at Sunnyview Elementary, Carter Middle and in 1988 graduated from Carter High School. He then studied engineering at East Tennessee State University.
He knows Station 26’s coverage area like the back of his hand. He lives three miles from the station.
In addition to the Rural Metro job, he’s done a few other things:
- Was a Lifestar paramedic for eight years at the UT Medical Center.
- Volunteered for what was then known as the Knoxville Volunteer Emergency Rescue (Squad) with advanced skills in trench rescue, confined space rescue and rope rescue; and was on the dive team.
- Serves as a Knox County Reserve Deputy and an investigator for Knox County’s Fire Investigation Task Force.
- Works part-time on AMR/Rural Metro ambulances.
- Worked part-time for eight years as a paramedic in the old St. Mary’s Hospital emergency room.
As the old saying goes, “The boy’s been around.” Think about juggling several of these jobs at the same time. That’s what he did. And to some extent, he still does.
“I feel a great sense of purpose in my career,” Pratt says as he pets his “baby” – a 15-year-old Shih Tzu named Blitzen, who joins him at work some days. “I want to be that guy who people want to show up to help them and be with them in terrible times. I love patient care. We have firefighters who happen to be paramedics. I’m a paramedic who happens to be a firefighter.”
Pratt is also a single dad to daughter Harper, a senior at Berean Christian School. She is on the volleyball team and Pratt is the team’s “Volleyball Dad.” He also has two stepchildren – son Reese, 28, and daughter Carson, 25.
During and after high school he worked at his grandfather’s company in Karns – Accurate Paper Box Co. It remains a family business today.
At 50, he says he knows he’s “aging out” for the job. “This is a young person’s job these days,” Pratt said. “But we’re having trouble finding young people to do this work. To them it’s just a job. To us it’s a lot more, a calling, something special, a brotherhood, and it matters every single day what we do.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. He writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes – for KnoxTNToday.com. Suggest future stories at [email protected] or call him at 865-659-3562.