KFD’s Mark Lane: ‘It’s the best job in the world’

Tom KingInside 640, Our Town Heroes

Mark Lane is a master firefighter and advanced EMT for the Knoxville Fire Department at Station 7 in Lonsdale. The station has but one fire truck – the “Quint 7” – and Lane is its driver on his Red Shift team.

What exactly is a “Quint” fire truck? It’s a quintuple combination pumper/fire-service truck that serves the dual purpose of being an engine and a ladder truck. “Quint” is derived from the Latin “quinque” (meaning five) and refers to the five functions that a Quint provides – pumper, water tank, fire hose, aerial device and ground ladders.

“She’s a big workhorse for sure,” Lane says. The truck can carry four firefighters and they all must know how to work every piece of equipment on the Quint. Its ladder extends some 70-feet up. The truck carries approximately 300 gallons of water and can deliver it through one of several discharge sites. When Lane is maneuvering the narrow streets of Lonsdale the Quint looks even larger.

Lane, a native of Blountville, is 39 and has been with the KFD for 10 years. His first nine years were spent at Station 18 at Papermill Drive and Weisgarber Road before settling in at Station 7 in January 2019.

“This is the best job in the world and I love it here,” Lane said. “It has the potential to be really hard every day. But this is like family here. We train together, eat together and sleep here when the alarm isn’t going off, and we get a lot of calls here. This is a lot more than just a job. It’s a way of life. I love to have a hand in helping someone.”

They rotate the cooking duties and Lane enjoys grilling out. “I like to grill fish and I have to watch what I eat.  I’m a Type 1 diabetic,” he says. They wash Quint 7 down to keep it shiny. They work to stay fit in a small workout room. The leader of this Red Shift crew is Capt. John Tilltett.

Lane describes the Lonsdale area as “a culturing melting pot” and says the majority of their calls are for medical issues, drug overdoses, shootings, car accidents and people falling.

After high school at Sullivan Central (he played football and baseball) he tried college, but it was not for him. So he spent four years in the U.S Air Force – all at Little Rock Air Force Base. He worked on C-130s. “I never did get to fly, not once,” he says.

After the Air Force, he came home and tried college at the University of Tennessee. That didn’t go far, but he did meet wife Samantha (Sam) there. They have a home in South Knoxville at Island Home. She is a productivity coach and keynote speaker through her company – Origami Day.

Mark Lane, KFD

As for his downtime to relieve the stress, he plays rugby for the Knoxville Possums at the Tennessee Rugby Park at Carter High School. They play teams from all over, home and away – Chattanooga, Memphis, Birmingham, Baton Rouge, Johnson City and Cincinnati. “It really helps keep me physically ready for my work,” Lane says.

Lane enjoys challenges and he has one coming up on Sunday, March 8. He will be one of 2,000 firefighters from around the country who, wearing full gear, will climb 69 flights of stairs in the Columbia Center in Seattle. It’s the second tallest building west of the Mississippi River. The event is to raise awareness and money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

He is representing himself, not the KFD. This cancerous blood disease claimed the life of his mother, Pamela, in 2015. In 2003 she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Through LLS research and patient support, he says, his mother lived another 12 years, thus his commitment to the LLS.

He’s climbing in her memory and for several other firefighters and friends. “Climbing 69 flights of stairs pales in comparison to what I saw my mother endure. If she can do that, I can do this for her and others,” he says.

Wife Sam is very involved as well and in 2014 was honored as the LLS Woman of the Year for her volunteer work and fundraising.

If you are interested in making a donation, call Lane at 865-985-6546 or email him at lane.markw@gmail.com

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 should feature, please email Tom King or call him at 865-659-3562.

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