Brian Townsend is chief of Knox County Rescue

Tom KingOur Town Heroes

Knox County Rescue (KCR) has a new chief with 37 years of experience in emergency services. Chief Brian Townsend, 57, retired from the Knoxville Fire Department (KFD) after 32 years – his last 15 years as a captain.

This past fall he agreed to be KCR’s volunteer chief. “I do enjoy it here. This is a whole different game than KFD,” he said. “When it’s in your blood, it does not matter whether you get paid or not. I love what we do and I’ve always loved serving our communities.”

For the majority of its time as an emergency services organization, KCR was known as the Knoxville Emergency Volunteer Rescue Squad. It was founded in 1958 when all of its members were volunteers – as they are today. Townsend says they now have between 70 and 75 volunteers.

And KCR has been busy during this past week’s snowstorm, cold weather and frozen roads in both the city and county. They have had 24 members volunteering this past week with many of them covering 24 hours at a time. In this past week, KCR has responded to over 75 calls.

Julie Greene, KCR’s executive director who runs the agency’s administrative functions, added, “The past few days have been big for KCR. We have pulled ambulances out of ditches, gone where fire trucks can’t get to, transported patients to hospitals when the ambulance system was overloaded with calls.”

Townsend, reared in Halls and a 1984 graduate of Halls High School, continues to work as a volunteer captain for the Paulette Volunteer Fire Dept. in Union County and is a firefighter for the Jefferson City Fire Dept. After high school he joined Rural Metro as a reserve firefighter in 1986 and remained there until joining KFD in 1990. During that time, he also worked part-time as an EMT on ambulances.

Townsend has two adult sons and a granddaughter. He lost his wife eight years ago to a blood clot following surgery and in October 2023, his fiancé, Paula McCarter, a retired 911 dispatcher, passed away at home.

These are the services KCR provides the community:

  • Motor vehicle accidents and entrapments
  • Water rescue
  • Heavy rescue
  • Trench and structural collapse
  • Cave and vertical rescue
  • Small aircraft accidents
  • Large community events support (like UT football games and the Tennessee Valley Fair)

Townsend said KCR also has a Search and Rescue (SAR) team working with local agencies (at their request) to search for missing persons. They made several rescues in 2023. They assist the National Park Service looking for people who become lost or injured in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and individuals with dementia who become lost from their homes or facilities where they live.

Members of the SAR team are specially trained in tracking techniques. He added that KCR has a grant and is about to have a drone to assist them in searches.

“Brian is the epitome of KCR’s mindset. He has talents and gifts along with a heart to serve. He’s the first to roll up his sleeves and do whatever he can,” said Greene. “We are grateful he’s here.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.


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