By Ben Lawson
With a lifetime of service already under his belt, former Seymour Volunteer Fire Department chief Darryl Kerley is moving to Oak Ridge as their new fire chief.
With the move he leaves behind a legacy of service to Seymour spanning three decades.
Kerley traces his interest in firefighting back to his days with the Boy Scouts, when he and 12 other friends spent time backpacking, rappelling, hiking and more with the Explorer program.
Since then, six members of the group have gone on to have careers in emergency services, with fire, police and medical departments. Kerley attributes their choices to the same need for excitement.
“I just think it’s the personality,” he said. “It was like an extension of our Boy Scout days.”
When he started with the SVFD in 1981, Seymour had only one station and fielded 90 calls a year, versus the six stations and 2,800 calls now.
Even though Seymour was already “one of the premier departments in the area” at the time, Kerley couldn’t make a living as a volunteer. So he went into engineering for the next 25 years until deciding to change careers at age 40.
“My boss at the time liked to say you should love your job enough to do it for free,” Kerley said. “I told him I had been fighting fires in Seymour for free and would like to try making a living at it.”
Kerley worked as fire chief with the Department of Energy in Oak Ridge before joining the Oak Ridge Fire Department. On Sept. 11, he officially became fire chief at Oak Ridge.
“I was allowed to pick what day I started,” he said. “I couldn’t think of a better day for the fire department.”
Kerley, who will have amassed 30 years in Seymour on Sept. 17, will be retiring from the SVFD at the end of December. He noted that the SVFD covers more people, has more stations and the same number of personnel as Oak Ridge while only operating on a fraction of the budget. The department is currently only able to provide a small stipend for two volunteers to staff Station #1 during the day.
But Kerley plans to still be a part of the community. He has family in Seymour, including a son-in-law who is full time with the Knoxville Fire Department and his two grandsons. He also still teaches a variety of classes including basics for recruits, leadership and fire officer courses. Most of all, he’ll miss volunteering.
“Everyone should volunteer for their community doing something,” he said. “It is such a rewarding experience.”
Volunteering a 30 Year Reward
By Ben Lawson