Behind the Badge: Rural Metro firefighter knows the importance of community

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – On any given day, area first responders are called out to numerous emergencies.

However, for some, each time the siren sounds the call to respond takes on an added importance.

That’s especially true for responders like Rural Metro Firefighter Eric Jernigan.

A 23-year veteran of Rural Metro, Jernigan has also called Station 26 in the Carter community home for more than a decade.

“It is my home, my wife’s family is from here, my community interests are here,” Jernigan said.

His co-workers agree.

“I mean parents know him. They see him out, they know who he is, what he does for a living,” Rural Metro Captain Jeff Bagwell said. ” He lives there. His kids go to school there… so he is very embedded.”

It’s that familiarity, Jernigan tells WATE 6 on Your Side, that can help build a level of trust between firefighters like himself and those in need.

“There’s a lot of people that have lived here a long time,” Jernigan said. “They’ll call the station director or call my phone direct and say can you come check on grandma or check on aunt so and so.”

Jernigan goes on to add that it’s that level of community, getting to know those you serve, that can make a first responder’s job all the more rewarding.

“I mean if I had to go to Halls or Powell or out west, I would do the same job,” Jernigan said. “There would be the same level of commitment but being part of this community does make it more beneficial. You feel better when you go home and you can say you know, we did good today.”

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