Volunteers in any organization are hard to come by. But a volunteer like Jackie Clark is something else again. The good people at the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) know full well that Clark is special. To be official, she’s Lt. Jackie Clark.
“To me, Jackie is the picture of a true Tennessee volunteer,” says Seymour Chief John Lisenbigler, a soft-spoken man who does not toss around compliments like candy at a parade. “She walked in the door in October 2013, and all she had was a big heart to serve her community and the willingness to learn. Learn and serve she has, and she continues to do so. With no past fire-fighting experience, she went right in to rookie fire-fighting school.”
Here’s the timeline for what she’s been doing since:
- Graduated rookie fire school in May 2014 and obtained her State Firefighter-1 rating and Hazardous Materials tech certifications.
- March 2015 completed Emergency Medical Responder training and received her state certificate.
- Recognized by her peers and was elected and sworn in as a lieutenant in the department on Dec. 9, 2016.
- She took time off from work to take a five-day course at the Tennessee Fire and Codes Academy and obtained her Fire and Life Safety Educator-1 rating in May 2017.
- She took time off from work in November 2017 to earn her Fire and Life Safety Educator-2.
- She is also in her final semester at Roane State Community College to obtain her Basic EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) rating this month.
Lt. Clark, 37, drives the big engines and the rescue and support vehicles. She’s an interior structure firefighter and has “worked and seen” some horrible automobile wrecks with mangled bodies. She was late for our interview by an hour after rushing out to a 911 call about an elderly man who had fallen in his home. It quickly became a medical call when she determined he had suffered a stroke.
“There are no calls that scare me now,” she says. “I’m not one to panic. It takes a lot to scare me. We also work as a team, and I know we’re there to back one another up.”
Remember: She is a non-paid volunteer. Her real job is at Green Mountain Coffee’s facility in the Forks of the River Industrial Park. She operates a packing machine there. She’s married to Devlin, and their family is the three dogs they adore.
“I truly love doing this,” she says in her understated manner. “It’s for sure not a monotonous job. The calls are all different, and it challenges you every day. I was really shy when I first started volunteering, but this job has turned me into a confident person.”
The chief knows that one day she’ll get a full-time paid job as an emergency-services professional. That’s her goal. “But even if I do get a full-time job, I’ll still be volunteering here. I love this place and the people.” And yes, she lives in Seymour.
The department covers areas of three counties – Sevier, Blount and Knox. It has six stations. Clark works out of Station 2 on Chapman Highway. She is one of approximately 45-50 active volunteers. The chief says their coverage area is about 118 square miles.
That is the emergency side of Clark. She also has a public-service job for the department. “She has taken on the responsibility of representing us as our Fire Life Safety (FLS) educator to bring fire-safety education programs to the tri-county area,” Chief Lisenbigler says. In various settings at schools and senior-citizen centers, she teaches fire safety, fall safety, child safety restraint devices (car seats), fire-escape strategies and smoke-alarm safety.
She’s also a fundraiser. “She works at Green Mountain Coffee, and through their employee matching donations she’s given her annual matching funds to the department,” Lisenbigler says. “She even persuaded Green Mountain Coffee, through another helping-heroes program, to donate five Keurig coffeemakers and cases of coffee to our department for our different stations, and for us, that’s big.”
Has she hobbies? Yes. She lists them as hiking, mountain biking on her Kawasaki Ninja, word working and tent camping. She works hard and plays hard.
“We’re lucky to have this professional in our department,” the chief says. “She makes a difference for us and our community.”
(Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a weekly series – Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals. Watch for this feature every Monday in KnoxTNToday.com, and if you have suggestions about someone we need to feature, email Tom King at email@example.com)