The deck was stacked. Emory Griffin Chamberlain never had a chance. Doing the shuffling and dealing were a quartet of Chamberlain’s relatives – siblings Scot, Uncle Tony, Aunt Caroline and grandfather Ronnie Chamberlain. Firefighting, law enforcement, emergency medical service, and first responder work is in their DNA.
Ditto for Emory. He’s now part of the family business.
- Scot is Emory’s father, who was a Rural Metro firefighter for 26 years. He also was in the Army Reserves as a combat medic.
- His paternal grandfather, Ronnie, spent 40 years at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and retired in 2012 as chief deputy.
- Uncle Tony has been part of KCSO for 31 years and is now a captain, supervisor and helicopter pilot for the KCSO Aviation Unit.
- Aunt Caroline, who has been in emergency services work for 27 years, works for Jefferson County EMS on its ambulances.
Emory, only 21, has been a firefighter for the Knoxville Fire Department for two years. He’s all in for this career path, too. No second thoughts. He learns and loves what he’s doing – every day.
“My Dad’s pretty much the entire reason this will be my career, but they all played a huge role in making my decision and they stressed getting involved on the medical side of this since so many of our calls are medically related versus fires,” he explained. “Becoming a paramedic is pretty big.”
At the age of 14, he joined KFD’s Explorer post. He was exposed to a new world and the Explorer training is rigorous. “When they think you’re ready, you get to go on calls, ride the engines and that’s really cool. But we do not fight the fires. We do exterior work away from the fire collapse zones, taking the firefighters tools and helping with the hoses and mopping up after the fire.”
KFD Fire Capt. Paul Trumpore, also the department’s chaplain, has led the Explorer program for 18 years. Emory caught his eye and attention. “He’s one of the best and most reliable KFD Explorers we have ever had in our program,” he said. “You could see the passionate gleam in his eyes for meeting the needs of people through emergency services. Nothing he’ll do going forward would surprise me.”
And Emory? He’s a firefighter on Engine 11 at the KFD’s Station 11 in Whittle Springs on the Green shift. In February 2022, he completed paramedic school at Roane State Community College and was selected as the Paramedic Student of the Year. He soon will be taking the Paramedic National Registry certification test and hopes for the results later this month or in January. In his spare time, he works part-time on ambulances at Jefferson County EMS. He’s also earned his EMT-Advanced credentials.
Let’s step back into his family, for it helps understand what makes him who he is. He’s still living with his parents in the Strawberry Plains home he grew up in on Graves Road. The rest of the family lives nearby, sharing about 100 acres. His fishing buddy is maternal grandfather, Jim Griffin. “We fish all the lakes around here,” he said, adding, “He’s a much better fisherman than I’ll probably ever be.” Emory has an 18-foot bass boat. He also enjoys hunting deer and turkey.
After graduating from Carter High, he began the KFD Fire Academy in November 2021 and his next graduation was on Feb. 25, 2022, from the fire academy. He then spent six months at Station 18 on Weisgarber before beginning at Station 11 on November 22.
On November 17, Roane State had its end-of-year banquet at Buddy’s Banquet Hall at lunchtime. As soon as the banquet ended, he walked outside and heard about the Ridge Fire. “No one called me but I just went. I figured they could use some help,” he said. He stopped by the station for his gear and worked until 7 p.m.
He still looks at his job as if he is a kid watching a fire engine rumble by with its siren sounding. “It’s the adrenalin, I’ll admit it, that’s a big part of doing this job. Kinda like a junkie,” he said. “I find a lot of satisfaction in knowing I’m doing something good and helping someone. I bet 80% of the population we serve in Whittle Springs is older. The vast majority of our calls are medical support calls for the elderly.”
He’s been a fulltime firefighter for only two years and obviously has not experienced what many longtime veterans have seen – seeing fatalities in vehicle accidents or someone who dies in fire. The veterans have issues when the victims are children.
Some at KFD describe him as a quiet hard worker. “Yep. I’d agree with that.” Emory is serious about his profession and his future. “I do think about career goals and I know I’m still young. I’m just trying to learn something new every day at the station and on every call. But I want to advance myself and my knowledge and skills. And maybe one day, one day, I could be a chief.”
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.