Capt. Josh McKnight: Rural Metro Fire’s top officer

Tom KingEast Knox, Our Town Heroes, Sevier

When you’re selected as Rural Metro’s Fire Officer of the Year, it’s a very big deal. And Capt. Joshua James McKnight knows it. So do the agency’s senior keadership team – Chief Jerry Harnish and Asst. Chiefs Jeff Devlin and Rick Herrell. They made the unanimous decision about this prestigious award.

It is an honor McKnight, a 12-year Rural Metro veteran, never expected. “It’s a huge deal. I was shocked. I never saw this coming at all,” he said. “It kinda feels undeserving to me. There are other officers who do more and are more educated and plugged in and making a larger impact than I make. I don’t want recognition. I just want to always do a good job and make sure we’re good at what we do.”

Josh McKnight

Harnish & Co. based their decision on McKnight’s “dedication, his desire to learn and train and his sense of work ethic.”

The Rural Metro captain, 35, is based at Station 34 in Gibbs and also supervises operations at two other stations – Station 33 in Corryton and Station 25 in Mascot on the Green shift.

It’s a major responsibility. The firefighting crews have to be in a constant state of readiness, as does the equipment. The engines must be ready for any variety of emergencies that come their way. “Training is a major part of what we do and something I love. We train about six hours per shift depending on the call alarm volume,” McKnight explained. In addition to running fire calls they respond to vehicle accidents, medical emergencies in homes and businesses, lift assists when people fall in their homes or elsewhere.

McKnight says doing lift assists – a call they regularly get – is one of his favorite things. “I enjoying running those because it allows me and our crews to put a personal twist on what we do, to get to know the patients and put a smile on their faces,” he said. “And let them know that we’re there for them.”

In addition to the ongoing training at his station, McKnight, for the first time, was a member of the faculty at the Rural Metro Fire Academy. “I absolutely loved this experience. I love teaching and watching people learn and helping them grow. I also really enjoy mentoring some of the young guys and helping them grow.”

One question we always ask these heroic fire and medical first responders: “Why did you chose this career?” McKnight first wanted to be a police officer. “I was waiting on applications and all with the Knoxville Police Department, working in a warehouse and a buddy of mine said he was starting the fire academy with Rural Metro and that I should try it. So I did and I decided that being a firefighter was way cooler than being a cop and I decided I didn’t want to be in a police car all day by myself.”

And it’s worked out for him. “I love it. I enjoy not knowing what the day will have in store for me. We’re never sure how the shift will unfold. It’s not mundane for sure. We’re constantly training and learning every day and that’s challenging,” he said, and added: “I enjoy mentoring people and making deposits into those people to be better, to change their behavior. I love learning. I enjoy learning from the new guys who just finished the fire academy.”

McKnight is an EMT-Advanced, with certifications in trench rescue, confined space rescue, and high-angle rescue.

When work ends, he has a 50-minute drive to his home in Sevier County. Wife Monica works at Sevierville’s Elevation Engineering as its chief operating officer. They have a son, Christian, who is 13. Family is his stress relief, along with their two dogs.

And their home is more than 100 years old. “It was built in 1920. I have been working for two years on it, completely remodeling it, and I’m doing it all myself. I’ve finished replacing the electrical and plumbing and I’m raising the ceilings from 7 feet 6 inches to 10 feet and 3 inches now with vaulted ceilings,” he explained. “This whole project started when Monica wanted a larger closet. And I added a mudroom and a 10-foot by 50-foot long wrap-around front porch. I still have more work to do. We love this house and we’re planning on retiring right here. It’s home.”

And a final thought about this Officer of the Year from Jeff Devlin: “Josh is exceedingly talented, along with being one of the most dedicated and caring officers I have come across in the past 32 years. Knox County and Rural Metro Fire are lucky to have him.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *