Information submitted by Captain Jeff Bagwell, public information officer for Rural Metro Fire.
This month, we introduce to our East Knox County community, Strawberry Plains Station 26 “Green Shift.” This shift boasts a tremendous amount of experience as well as history and passion. These men are dedicated to the Carter community as they not only live within the community, they respond on their days off, assist with Recruit Academies and even went to school in the Carter community.
Eric “Sarge” Jernigan has been with Rural Metro Fire since 1996. Sarge started as a Reserve in 1996 before becoming a full-time employee in 1998.
Before coming to Rural Metro Fire, Sarge served for 25 years in the Marine Corps, hence the nickname. Sarge is a licensed paramedic and a master firefighter who works part-time on an ambulance for AMR, here in Knox County. Sarge loves to build up young firefighters. Station 26 has a tradition of having several “live-in” firefighters who live at the fire station while they learn the skills necessary to become full-time employees of the RMFD. He is married with one son and has worked at Station 26 for nine years.
Matthew Clift has been with Rural Metro Fire since 2005. He is a third generation RMF firefighter, son and grandson of past Rural Metro Reserves. The actual Station 26 is named in honor of his grandfather, John H. Clift Sr. Matthew remembers riding in the fire trucks to calls as a child in the late ’70s and ’80s (when it was allowed) before becoming a reserve in 2005. He was hired as a full-time firefighter in 2007 and promoted to captain in 2015. Matthew is a licensed EMTA and has served as the lead instructor for the past several Recruit Academies. Matthew loves coming to work and serving his community and it shows in his passion for helping people and training the next generation of firefighters in Knox County. Matthew still lives in the Carter community and is not married.
Each crew works a 24-hour shift beginning at 7 o’clock each morning. Generally, the crew spends the first half of each shift inspecting equipment for readiness, training, engaging in physical fitness activities, and completing special projects, such as fire hydrant testing or prevention activities. The remainder of the shift allows crew members to eat, rest and socialize, at least when they’ve not been called out to respond to emergencies. Emergency responses occur several times every day at Station 26, spread across the 24-hour shift.
Rural Metro Fire is a division of AMR, the nation’s largest provider of emergency services. Its 200 full-time and on-call firefighters operate from 17 stations serving Knox County since 1977. Rural Metro is member-funded, and its members generally pay far less for homeowner’s insurance because of having a subscription to the department. Non-members are charged for services and do not benefit from insurance premium savings. Property owners can subscribe to Rural Metro by calling its Members Services Office at 560-0239.