Eric Bradshaw and Jonathan Souther fill unique roles for Rural Metro Fire and carry them out in a unique vehicle. They are the guys in Fire Medic 234 working out of “Jailhouse” Station 34 in Gibbs.
If you have ever seen them respond to an emergency, there’s a chance you did a double take when they opened the ambulance doors and left the vehicle. On the outside it looks just like any other AMR ambulance. But on the inside, it’s a much different emergency vehicle.
Fire Medics Bradshaw and Souther wear fire gear, not the usual shirts and slacks worn by AMR Ambulance staff. “We’re both trained firefighters and we’re also paramedics and advanced EMTs, responding to all Level 1 emergencies,” Bradshaw said.
“Our ambulance is full of the usual medical equipment and drugs and everything we need to transport people and then some, but we also carry our fire tools, our irons, the large extinguishers and air packs and all of our fire gear.”
Rural Metro has a pair of fire medic teams. The other one works out of Station 41 on Campbell Station Road in Farragut.
Capt. Brian Graham is in his second stint at Station 34, which is located very close to the Knox County Detention Center and has the nickname as the “Jailhouse.” It was Graham, in fact, who came up with the moniker and actually designed the patch, which pays tribute to the Gibbs High School Eagles, with the eagle in a jail cell, and flames licking the edges of the patch.
He also has to manage these two young firefighting professionals. Bradshaw and Souther are both 25 and Graham enjoys being their supervisor. “These two young men push me to be better every day,” he explained. “They are both really smart and the work ethic they bring to the job day in and day out is second to none. When they’re not on calls they are doing something related to training. It’s actually inspiring to see them train. I’m trying to make sure they don’t burn themselves out.” No pun intended, he added.
Graham added this: “Eric and Jonathan are huge assets for us and have really embraced this fire medic concept. They respond to medical calls, wrecks, brush fires, structure fires and they’re just as capable as the guys on the engines. They also can get to the scenes faster than the big engines. They give us a lot of advantages.”
Bradshaw joined Rural Metro 18 months ago from jobs in north Georgia. His wife, McKenna, is from Roane County and that’s how he ended up here. It’s almost the same for Souther. He and his wife visited East Tennessee and are here to stay, he says.
Bradshaw began hanging around the fire station in Clayton, Georgia, when he was 14. He spent seven years there as a volunteer and then was trained as a firefighter, an EMS and he became a paramedic.
Souther is a Florida guy. He’s from Ft. Lauderdale and worked three years as a critical care paramedic for a private company. In addition to his Rural Metro job, he’s also a firefighter for the Tennessee Air National Guard’s 134th Air Refueling Wing at McGhee Tyson Airport.
Here is how they approach the job.
Bradshaw: “…. I love what I do. I do enjoy it. I don’t feel like I’m ever at work. It does not feel like a job. It’s what I want to do. At (Station) 34 it’s a family. We all have tough calls and we sit down afterwards and talk about things. I can’t bring it home.”
Souther: “…It’s my purpose in life, to serve in the best capacity of being a firefighter and an EMS. It is what I am meant to do.
“When 911 shows up people expect 100% from us and it’s not fair to give them anything less. We treat our patients like family.
“I live and breathe firefighting and this emergency work. It’s who I am. I can’t shut it off, ever.”
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@example.com or call him at 865-659-3562.