Tanner Barkley

Tanner Barkley

Hometown Heroes highlights some of Greene County’s first responders with profiles and portraits.

Tanner Barkley, at 22-years-old, has already logged 3-1/2 years of service as a volunteer firefighter with the Tusculum Volunteer Fire Department. His interest in volunteering started while talking with friends from United VFD. When he showed interest in doing something in fire or rescue services, they suggested he look into Tusculum VFD since he lived so close. The first visit was all it took; he immediately fell in love with firefighting.

During his short period of service, Tanner completed basic fire school, becoming rated for interior firefighting. He has since responded to numerous fires, both small and large, as well as motor vehicle accidents. Not every call is flashing lights and a rush of excitement, especially when responding to an accident with people you know or dealing with a difficult fire call. This is when Tanner said he is thankful for his, “station family” who pull together as their own support group as well as the support from his fiancée, Molly.

There is a saying, “The funny thing about firemen is, night and day, they are always firemen.” The problem is there are fewer of them every year with volunteering hitting an all-time low and having volunteers available during the day is even more of a problem. While Tanner said one of the things he is most proud of is responding to the 3 a.m. calls, the understated value maybe with the calls he can respond to during the day. Being able to get the truck rolling for a daytime call during the workweek can be invaluable when other responders are still at work or en route to the call.

Each volunteer has different motivations for their service. For some it’s the rush of the call, others might have a family tradition of service. For Tanner, it’s knowing, “when the pager goes off you are going to help someone, even if it’s as simple as a fire alarm.” As a volunteer there is no pay. However, Tanner said a handshake and a “thank you” makes up for that.

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