Michael Farmer: Firefighter ‘flips’ the script

Tom KingOur Town Heroes, West Knox County

Rural Metro Firefighter Michael Farmer is usually the one doing the rescue and life-saving work. But on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2020, the script was flipped – as was Farmer and his motorcycle.

He was on his Honda CVR 600 RR around 3 p.m., stopped at the intersection of Kingston Pike and Campbell Station Road. The light changed and he headed across Kingston Pike and a late-model Porsche pulled out of the first driveway to his right directly into his path.


Farmer, 23, has no memory of the impact to the car’s driver side.

He says, flatly, that his helmet saved his life. Absent head injuries, the other injuries he suffered almost killed him.

The numbers describing what happened to him are mind boggling.

  • Multiple somersaults over the Porsche he hit, coming to a stop approximately 150 feet down the road. The helmet’s hard outer material was shaved down to the fabric inside.
  • 45 days at UT Medical Center
  • 13 hours of back and spinal surgery
  • 7 vertebrae, T-2 through T-8, crushed and L-1 through L-3 in his lower back fractured
  • 7 additional days in a rehabilitation facility in Chattanooga
  • 10 broken ribs
  • 4 ligaments in his right knee replaced
  • Unconscious and on a ventilator for 2 days in ICU
  • A hospital bill of approximately $950,000

“Someone told me later that my somersaults got a perfect score of 10,” he said, able to laugh about it now.

There were other injuries and issues too. Broken right hand and left wrist. Collapsed right lung. Right drop foot from the spinal injuries. Concussion that affected his memory for five to six months. A noticeable limp. Chronic back pain.

The driver who caused the accident was given a failure to yield citation by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Farmer said.

Farmer’s back at work now, on light duty at Station 32 in Heiskell. He is cleared to do most any job except for entering a structure to fight a fire. He should return to full duty in January 2022, he says.

He was reared in Cedar Bluff, attended Ball Camp Elementary and eventually graduated from Hardin Valley Academy in 2016. It was a suggestion by an HVA counselor that led him to Rural Metro. “It was kind of a whim. I needed a fourth class my senior year and she told me about a Fire Science class at Byington Solway Technical School run by Rural Metro.” He was hooked. “I kept thinking that this could be a pretty cool job.” In 2017 he signed up with Rural Metro and attended the Fire Academy.

His first full-time assignment was at Station 34 on Tazewell Pike in Corryton. He worked in the Rural Metro ambulance/medic as a firefighter/EMT and says he was “in the truck for about 23 hours a shift.” He then became a live-in firefighter at Station 10 on Parkside Drive and worked there for three years.

Rural Metro’s Michael Farmer enjoys a visit from fellow firefighter Grant Hickman at UT Medical Center.

He also spent some time working at Station 41 on Campbell Station Road and it was emergency personnel there who responded to his accident. He did have one memory while he was still lying in the roadway. “One of the guys, Taylor Monroe, looked at me and said ‘Farmer, what’d you do?’ I said, ‘I’m sorry.’”

This Honda was the fourth motorcycle he had owned – and he says it will be his last. He’s done riding the infamous “Dragon” and can’t say how many times he’s been on it taking those treacherous curves.

He recalls one bright spot during his long hospital stay. “Dr. Bob Moye (a clinical pharmacist specialist in the hospital pharmacy)  came to see me every day and on one of the first days he opened my blinds and told me that if they don’t open your blinds you’ll start forgetting night and day.” Moye is a long-time volunteer for Rural Metro and Knox County Rescue.

Three of his Rural Metro buddies took him to UT Medical Center – Capt. Alex Kennedy, Firefighter Taylor Monroe and Firefighter/Paramedic Alexander Beck. Kennedy and Beck worked on Farmer as they headed for the hospital. “They told me later that they thought I would not make it after they realized all of the injuries I had,” Farmer says.

His spirits are high these days as he prepares for full duty again. “This whole thing makes me more appreciative of literally everything in life – things we take for granted, like walking, everything,” he said.

Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was the editor of two newspapers. Suggest future stories at tking535@gmail.com or call him at 865-659-3562.

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