Mo Abbas: A busy man for KCR, Denark

Tom KingOur Town Heroes

Mohamed Abbas, otherwise known as Mo, is Knox County Rescue’s (KCR) operations battalion chief, a reserve firefighter/EMT at Rural Metro, a volunteer rescue technician certified in confined space rescue, structural collapse rescue, trench rescue, vehicle heavy rescue, swift water rescue, hazardous materials, Fire Officer I, and is an open water diver. There’s more. He is a CPR/AED/First Aid instructor for CPR Choice.

And still more….he’s working on his master’s in business administration (MBA) at the University of Tennessee, graduating in December, serves as a mentor fortnAchieves, works 60 hours a week at his Denark Construction real job as a senior project manager. He is married to wife Dina, and they have two little girls, Leyla, 2, and Noor, born in January 2022.

And he does all of this on just four hours of sleep a night. Every night. He is 30 years old and has lived in Knoxville for only two years as of August.

Knox County Rescue Battalion Chief Mo Abbas

“I’ve always been like this, sleeping only four hours a night,” he says. “I get up at 4 every morning and I’m at the office working by 5:30, sometimes by 5. I know I’m only 30 but I haven’t done enough yet in my life. There’s always more to do, to help with things, to learn every day, to teach others. I love my life.”

Mo is a Muslim, born and reared in New York on Long Island.

He has a sister, Vivian, and her husband, Ahmad, who have lived here for seven years. She is the one who convinced them to leave New York. “We’ve come down a lot to visit her, but we first wanted to move to Florida to escape the craziness of New York these days. But she convinced us to live here. It’s been great, too.”

Then their parents, Hesham and Mervat, moved to Knoxville a year ago. He still has a brother, Adam, in New York.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture and construction management with “Summa Cum Laude” honors from the New York Institute of Technology. Not long after settling in, he had a job at The Christman Co. and a year later was hired by Denark.

His primary project today is being the senior project manager in charge of the construction for downtown Knoxville’s new multi-use stadium that will be the home of the Knoxville Smokies within two years. And he was named to the Knox.Biz 40 Under 40 Class of 2021. And remember – he’s only lived here for two years in August.

Abbas is one of three KCR battalion chiefs and oversees the squad’s emergency operations and properties. He is on call 24/7 for all emergencies and responds to many, especially the more serious ones like the January 13 trench collapse in Powell. Seventy responders from Rural Metro, the Knoxville Fire Department and KCR’s Trench Rescue Team responded and ultimately successfully rescued two trapped workers. He was there for 12 hours.

During his volunteer work in New York, he was honored with over 30 Life-Saving Awards of Merit. Denark allows him the flexibility to handle his emergency volunteer jobs, although he does draw a check for his work as a reserve firefighter at Rural Metro. But he donates those checks to KCR. He estimates on average he works around 50 hours a week at KCR. “All of my emergency work in New York was all volunteer. I’ve never wanted to be paid for it. My wife thinks I’m crazy.”

What sparked this young man’s interest in emergency services work? “When I was 9 years old in 2000 my younger brother tripped and fell at home and busted his head wide open,” Mo said. “The firefighters responded and cared for him and got him in the ambulance to the ER. I watched what they did and knew I wanted to do that.” His mother also watched and that led to her working fulltime for an ambulance service as a driver and EMT. In 2009 he began his work with a group of buddies at the Deer Park, New York, fire department and his volunteer work began as a first responder.

A big part of his motivation comes from his Muslim faith. “Community service is a huge part of our religion – to help others, to give to others, to care for others, and this I do in and for my community. As I have said to others about this, if you’re not an active participant in your community, you might as well live in a hotel. I love doing all I do. Don’t know why. But I sure have fun doing it.”

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

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