By Ben Lawson
The decision to become a volunteer firefighter was not a difficult one for John Perry, who had been hanging around the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department since he was 15.
“I always wanted to be a firefighter, ever since I was a little boy,” he said.
It started as a fascination with fire trucks when he was growing up in Seymour and has since turned into a career that he has no intention to change any time soon.
Perry, who became a full fledged member in 2008 when he turned 18, could work for any fire department in the state. He’s a member of the Knoxville Fire Department and was put through a 1,300 hour academy. The SVFD also requires 40 hours of in-house training. Then there were 22 hours of live burn training. But the hard work has ensured that he is completely certified by the state.
Perry is an EMT, although since the fire department is considered an all hazard career, they all do a little bit of everything. Most calls are medical rather than fire related, and they are also equipped for rescues and dealing with hazardous material.
SVFD usually logs four to five calls on a normal day and average around 1,800 a year. This is a big jump up from the 24 emergency calls in 1971. Perry equates the increase with Seymour’s natural growth and transformation into a central connection between Sevierville and Knoxville.
“I moved here when I was five and I’ve seen it grown from nothing but farm land,” he said.
He said it’s likely that the department will need to expand along with the community, but that possibility is still on down the road. In the meantime, the department is ably handled by the 63 firefighters currently on staff, all of whom must take time from their personal lives to volunteer.
And the work can at times be trying. Perry vividly recalls the scene of a severe accident on Chapman Highway in which more than one person lost their lives. He said that all the responders were deeply affected by that call.
“An event like that will change your life,” he said. “That’s part of being a firefighter. You see that stuff, but also the good that comes out of the job.”
Even with hard situations like that, he remains committed to service, also working part time with the Sevier County Ambulance Service and at one time was with the Sevierville Fire Department.
“I think this is what I’m meant to do,” he said.
Volunteer Firefighter Living Dream
By Ben Lawson