Michael Kinser

Some people spend their whole life in search of the job that is right for them. Michael Kinser thought computer programing was his path but found the 40-hour-a-week desk job too confining. Fortunately for him, an opportunity came early in his working life to become a firefighter with the Greeneville Fire Department.

Kinser, now 38-years-old, has been with the city department for 13 years. He reached the rank of Lieutenant after nine years on the job.

Kinser’s exposure to firefighting stated young, while living near the South Greene Volunteer Fire Department where his father was a member. He would get excited to see which way the trucks would go when they turned out of the station – would they turn away from the house or go past it. Adding to his excitement was when he knew his dad was on one of the trucks.

There were also the trips to one of the Kingsport fire stations that were part of riding with his grandmother to her dentist appointments. After the appointments, she would take him over to the station, where department members would give him tours of the station, trucks, and equipment.

“He may not remember me but it was Steve Johnson with the Kingsport department that gave me many tours,” Kinser said.

Kinser went on to join the South Greene department in January of 2004, giving him 17-years of service. During that time, he was a firefighter, lieutenant and currently serves as a captain.

Kinser had his first opportunity for an interior attack on a house fire shortly after completing his basic 64-hour firefighting course. In an interior attack, the firefighters go into the house to fight the fire at its source, the inside of the fire. Not only was this his first interior attack, but his partner on this interior attack was also a firefighter he grew up watching: his father.

“We pulled up and it’s heavy fire in the front, there is fire coming off the front door, and it’s melting the vinyl siding off the soffit,” Kinser remembered. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m supposed to go in here; is this really how this is supposed to go?’”

Kinser continued to look over the scene as he geared up. His father got on the hose line and called, “let’s go.”

Kinser got on the front, and the two of them pushed in to fight the fire together giving him a true “taste” of firefighting. It also started to build his confidence to pursue firefighting as a career when the opportunity presented itself.

Kinser is quick to point out he is fortunate to have a career as a firefighter where he can serve both paid and as a volunteer. He uses Christ as his example, “he came to serve, not to be served.”

To serve, he continues to volunteer with the South Greene department, where he started and gained his initial exposure to the fire service. But more importantly, it is about maintaining a sense of community.

In Kinser’s current position as a Lieutenant with the Greeneville Fire Department, he supervises two other firefighters and is responsible for equipment readiness. That responsibility extends to decisions made on scenes that could result in someone injured or worse.

Training is conducted regularly to be prepared for the large variety of situations the modern firefighter or officer is exposed to. This is where another one of Kinser’s favorite scriptures fits, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” Proverbs 27:17.

“I get exposed to a lot of iron in this field,” Kinser said.

Kinser’s personal and professional belief is, “anything you go at in life, you should leave a positive impact.” Just as a firefighter in Kingsport took the time to show him around each time he visited, Kinser likes working with kids and takes time for them, sometimes by helping check for the correct installation of child safety car seats.

He recognizes anytime he leaves to answer a call or to work at the volunteer station he is spending time away from his own family. But he hopes his kids see the servant side, that there is a reward for serving other than the financial compensation.

Eric Kaltenmark is an emergency services photographer located in Afton, Tn. Comments and questions can be emailed to eric@ek-photography.com

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