It’s all about the job – nothing more, nothing less. Sounds simple. Maybe it is. Matt Kinney and younger brother Marc are men of very few words. Ask them why they love their careers as firefighters and EMTs at Rural Metro Fire and you hear and you feel their passion. It’s unmistakable.
Matt: “Every day is so different. The calls we run are similar but each one is different. People count on us when they need us and because of our training we’re confident we can get the job done.”
Marc: “I try to explain to people why I have such a passion for this job. Some get it, some don’t. It’s a calling for me. I’m in a job that helps people in our community. It’s a very special and serious responsibility.”
Matt, 37, has been with Rural Metro for 19 years, signing up the same year he graduated from Farragut High School. Marc, 34, joined Rural Metro after graduating from Catholic High School in 2003. He left in 2012 but after nine years was back at Rural Metro.
Matt works out of Station 41 on Campbell Station Road and Marc works at the new Station 42 at Choto – both in Farragut.
At one point there were four Kinney brothers at Rural Metro at the same time from 2005 to 2013. The oldest of the four is Sean, 39, and he was a firefighter for approximately 10 years. The baby of the family is 32-year-old Scot, who was at Rural Metro for eight years. Eight knee surgeries forced him to hang up his turn-out gear in 2013. The injuries were from his AYSO soccer career, a sport all four boys played. Their mother, Marlene, was their coach. Marlene’s real job is being a special education classroom assistant at A.L. Lotts Elementary School for the past 26 years.
Let’s talk family now. Sean and Scot left Rural Metro and work in the family business – Kinney Sharpening Services on Lovell Road – run by their father, Randy. They sharpen most anything – surgical tools, knives of all kind, mower blades, the tools of hair stylists and animal groomers, and more.
Marc returned to Rural Metro because he missed helping people. He remembers one call in particular. “This call was to help an elderly man. He got up out of his recliner and he fell and was stuck and really trapped between his chair and a heavy end table,” Marc said. “He was way too heavy for his wife to help up. His knees were pushed up against chest and he had no leverage. We got him up and he’s fine. But he needed help and we were there for him. To me that matters.”
It matters to Matt, too. In his first five years he actually lived at Station 10 on Parkside Drive and was on call and ready 24 hours a day. Why does he love his career so? “It’s fun,” he says with a big smile. “The job, the people we work with and depend on and they depend on me … on all of us.”
An elderly woman sure needed them a few years back. “We responded to a two-alarm fire at a building of condos. The roof was on fire and we broke into one of the condos. Smoke was coming in and I found a woman sleeping in a back bedroom,” Matts says. “She didn’t even know it was on fire. We got her up and tried to calm her down and we got her outside. She lost her condo but she was OK.”
Matt also has been a volunteer for Knox County Rescue since 2005. He specializes in high-angle rescue, cave rescue and confined space rescues. He also does training for American ERT throughout the country in rope rescue work and high-angle rescues.
His wife of five years, Courtney, is the office manager who fills a lot of roles at American Boat Center. Matt’s stepson is Tucker, 12, who goes to Farragut Middle School.
When Matt was in the fire training academy, he was handed a tool that is on all of the trucks – the pike pole, used for pulling down ceilings and walls. He called it a fire poker. “That got me my nickname – Poker. That’s what everyone calls me here,” he said.
Matt and Marc had the same youth leader in high school, Evan Schukman at St. John Neumann Catholic Church. He helped lead them to Rural Metro. Today, Schukman is the vice president of safety & security at Dollywood.
These brothers drive the trucks. They respond to major and minor traffic accidents, some involving fatalities. They are there after suicides, or when young children are sick or injured. They assist the elderly, use their EMT skills to help save a life, and go into homes, condos and buildings that are on fire and bring people out. The stress builds up.
“Hey, it’s what we do and what we love to do,” Matt said.
I turned to Marc. “What he said. It’s what we do and who we are.”
Note: Our Town Heroes – highlighting Knoxville’s emergency-service professionals – is published each Monday on KnoxTNToday. If you have suggestions about a first responder/emergency-services professional we need to feature, email Tom King or call him at 865- 659-3562.