Justin “Jingle” Ingle is part of a 93-year legacy dating back to 1926. He wears the boots, the gear, the helmet, the badge and the uniform of the Knoxville Fire Department (KFD) as did his father, grandfather and great grandfather. It is a legacy this 37-year-old embraces.
Justin is part of the only fourth-generation family in the 165-year history of the KFD. Today, he’s a senior firefighter/advanced-EMT at Station 4 at 2300 Linden Ave. His KFD career began on July 2, 2012, and he’s always worked at Station 4. The three family members who went before him were all KFD captains. When that was mentioned, his response was: “Yes, I know that and I’m working on it.”
Here is the family’s legacy list and the years they served:
- Great grandfather Fire Capt. Garrett H. Ingle: 1926-1952
- Grandfather Capt. Joseph A. Ingle: 1955-1975
- Father Capt. Stanley W. Ingle – 1970-2010
- Justin A. Ingle: 2012 – present
Those are three pairs of big boots for Justin to fill.
The first two Capt. Ingles had the same nickname. Around the KFD both were known as “Buck.” Justin’s father, Stan, 71, was called “Single” – adding his first initial to his last name. So Justin is, of course, known as “Jingle.”
He was reared in Halls and lives there today. To say that Justin grew up in the family business is putting it mildly. He had toy fire trucks. In the backyard was an old fire truck that his father bought. Much of his childhood was spent riding in and playing in and around that red truck. It is still in his dad’s backyard. The KFD is a family business the Ingles.
After graduating from Halls High School in 1999 he hit a speed bump on his way to the KFD. “I ran away from it for a while and thought there was maybe something else out there I wanted to do,” he says. “I don’t follow the crowd and I wanted to maybe change the dynamics some. But through everything I have done I really never lost what I call the firebug. It’s always been in my genes.”
After high school, he attended ITT Technical Institute and earned an associate’s degree in computer-aided design. He also joined the Tennessee Air National Guard in 2001 and he’s in his 18th year with the 134th Air Refueling Wing at McGhee Tyson Airport. He’s a crew chief on the KC-135 tankers and has been on missions all around the world.
He also met his first wife through the military. She was a South Dakota native, so he moved there with her. He was there for five years when the marriage ended. While there he was with the South Dakota Air National Guard and worked as a firefighter as well.
He and his first wife had a daughter, Madeline, who is now 12. In 2018 he married Brandy and her daughter from her first marriage. Leiarah, also 12, lives with Justin and Brandy. Three weeks ago Brandy delivered their new little girl, Cheyenne. Mom and daughter are doing fine.
He is still with the 134th Refueling Wing and also works part-time, along with his father, for Rose Mortuary. But his KFD job is his life now, a life he loves as part of the brotherhood of firefighters.
“Yes, I do for sure love it. All of it. The reward for doing the job is helping people. And we do that. You see the smiling faces on little kids when they see us with the trucks or are around our fire trucks. Our public interaction is a real driver that helps keep us all inspired and motivated. It’s a fun job – I get to drive a big cool fire truck. I’m a big boy with a big toy. But it’s an important toy,” he said.
Stan Ingle, who spent 40 years with the KFD, says of his son: “Yes, I am very proud of him. I kind of knew he’d end up back here in the department. He knows what the life is like and what I did. He just didn’t know how to do it then. Now he knows what to do and how to do it.”
Families having generations at the fire department are a thing of the past, Stan added. “The job has changed. People have changed. Traditions have gone out the window. It’s hard to find young people today to do this work. You’re not going to get rich doing it. But you work side jobs to take care of your family, and there are other riches besides money. But today’s young people want a lot of money now.”
Stan knew from the start that he’d be a firefighter. “I was in civics class in high school and we had to pick out three careers we wanted,” he said. “Being a fireman is the only one I wrote down. I had a lot of the little toy fire trucks and my dad’s station was only a mile from our house. I spent a lot of time there and knew all the firemen. I went there just about every single day. I got to ride the trucks with them. This was bred in me.”
Justin was a young 30 when he joined the KFD. Relaxing is jumping on his Victory 106 motorcycle and riding. He’s part of what is known as the Axemen Motor Club, serving as its chapter vice president.
This motorcycle-riding group shares the brotherhood of both firefighting and motorcycling and the traditions that come with both. The Axemen nation has now grown to comprise 33 chapters in 16 states. Even with that expansion, the Axemen nation has continued to pride itself on living by its motto: “Quality over Quantity.”
Getting away from the rigors and stresses of the job can be difficult. Sooner or later, all firemen see things they’d like to forget. “Yes, I do have ghosts,” Justin says, rubbing his forehead and readjusting his ball cap. “You carry some of them with you all the time. You see people mangled and burned to death, including kids, and you don’t ever forget it. It’s part of the job. You do what you have to do.”
And what about a fifth generation? “Yep, we’re going to try for a boy next and keep this legacy going,” Justin said.
Editor’s Note: This is part of a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday on KnoxTNToday, and if you have suggestions about a first responder/emergency-services professional we need to feature, please email Tom King or call him at (865) 659-3562.