Teen buddies begin careers at Rural Metro

Tom KingHalls, Our Town Heroes

Today we’re talking about “Our Town Heroes of the Future.” Four of them. They’re still teenagers, but these young men know who they are, where they’re going … and why. They share a bond, sealed by years of friendship, going back to elementary school, by family and by a love of service to their community.

They are:

  • Logan Bagwell, 18, 2021 graduate of Grace Christian Academy.
  • Alex Gregory, 17, 2021 graduate of Grace Christian Academy.
  • Nick Johnson, 17, 2021 graduate of Halls High School.
  • Jonathan Kidd, 18, 2021 graduate of Grace Christian Academy.

They are members of Rural Metro Fire’s Explorer Post 454, going out on calls for fires and accidents and doing whatever they are asked to help firefighters and Rural Metro’s first responders.

In July, they begin the serious business of becoming reserve live-in firefighters with Rural Metro Fire. In the fall, they will start EMT School at Roane State Community College, and in January 2022, they will enter Rural Metro’s Fire Academy. Then, when a full-time position opens, it’s off to a station as professionals.

Last week we gathered at Station 36 in Powell. Interviewing all four at the same time was an interesting undertaking. Remembering who said what about what and who was a challenge.

One other person was in the room – Rural Metro Capt. Jeff Bagwell, the agency’s veteran public information officer and the father of Logan, also known as “Little Bags.”

Logan and Nick were born into the world of Rural Metro. Logan remembers going on calls with Dad when he was just 5. Nick’s father, Brian, was with Rural Metro for 20-plus years and now works as a firefighter at Oak Ridge’s ORNL.

They each have the 100-pounds of turnout gear, full firefighter uniforms, donated by the Mitchell Power Plant in New Martinsville, W.Va. The cost of the gear for one firefighter is over $1,000. Their uniforms and even T-shirts are all red for now, signifying their training status. They shed the red when training academy graduation rolls around.

For now, they will be working out of Stations 30, 36 and 31. Come July, Logan and Alex will be together at Station 31 and Jonathan and Nick at Station 30 as live-in reserves. That is to say that they live at the fire station and get paid when they respond on calls as reserves, all while they attend their college classes.

Alex has plans to attend the Tennessee College of Applied Technology and become a diesel engine technician and perhaps be available to work in Rural Metro’s fleet services division along with firefighting. Nick plans to attend the University of Tennessee while working to earn a degree in construction science and build homes.

Here are some interesting excerpts from the interviews:

“I remember when I was about 5 and I would go on calls with Dad when he was a volunteer with Andersonville VFD. He had a child’s car seat in the front of the engine for me,” Logan says. When he was 14, the reality of this profession became real for Logan. “I went along on a cardiac arrest call and just watched. That was my first dead body and I learned then that death is real.”

Two years ago, when Jonathan and Logan were juniors at Grace Christian, they went to watch Rural Metro fight a house fire. “That day I said I wanted to do what they’re doing and I joined the Explorers the next day,” Jonathan said.

Nick remembers a day at Halls Elementary School when his father, Brian, brought an engine to school for a demonstration and was in his full gear. “The whole school was watching and I was proud. I knew then I was going to do what he did,” he says. “And all I can say is that I’m addicted to this career.”

Alex started hanging out with Logan and Jonathan on fire calls and other emergencies and was hooked. He joined the Explorer post. “It’s been very interesting and it’s going to be my career. I’m a tinker and like to be hands-on and help people,” he explained.

These four are among 20 in the Rural Metro Explorer post, which is affiliated with the local chapter of the Boy Scouts. Capt. Bagwell says any young men or women interested can call or text him at 865-765-6493.

They will be soaking up knowledge and gaining valuable experience this summer, running calls and watching pros at work. They’ll be watching, listening and asking questions. In the fall they begin EMT classes at Roane State and it begins to become very real for these four buddies.

“These four young men represent the future, and when watching them work, and their zeal for the profession, the department and their community, the future looks very bright,” said Capt. Bagwell.

Tom King writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes – for KnoxTNToday.com. Please suggest future stories for him at tking535@gmail.com or call him at 865-659-3562.

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