KNOXVILLE —Imagine thick, black clouds of smoke accompanied by roaring flames and total destruction of everything in its path. The only things of any significant value after the destruction are faint memories of what used to be substantial. This is a fear that probably struck the hearts and minds of the citizens of Seymour and South Knox in 1971.
In 1971, a group of concerned citizens and business owners worked together to establish fire protection for local homes and businesses in Seymour and South Knox. The Seymour Volunteer fire station was opened in the mid 1980’s. Station 2, at 7915 Chapman Hwy, was initially a leased facility until property could be found to build a new station.
Jess M. Tarwater leased property to the department and built relationships with the firefighters. When Tarwater passed away, the department remained on the property. Station 2 is dedicated to Tarwater’s memory. Since then the department has been remodeled and renovated.
In 2013, the station was renovated to include office space and updated living quarters for the firefighters.
SVFD is still active today and continues to serve the community through their services. The organization does not charge a fee, but does do annual fundraisers. SVFD has six fire stations, one of which is owned by Johnson University on Kimberlin Heights.
Executive Administrator of SVFD, John Linsenbigler, served as Director of Plant Operations at Johnson University for more than 30 years.
The Linsenbigler family is no stranger to the Johnson community. John’s parents, Clarence and Ethelyn Linsenbigler both attended Johnson and were actively involved. Clarence served as Dean of Men at Johnson for three years and Ethelyn served as a nurse at Johnson and was involved in the teacher education program.
John’s children are also Johnson alumni. John Linsenbigler has a rich family history at Johnson and now serves SVFD as Executive Administrator.
“I volunteered for Seymour for about 25 years while I was working at Johnson,” he said. “I was a fire chief for the emergency services on campus… when I retired from Johnson there was a position here to do some administrative work and they asked me if I’d like to do it.”
This year was the first year that Johnson students came to SVFD to serve during K-16.
“It is great to have these volunteers and this is the first time we ever had students from Johnson come,” he said.“It’s great to have Johnson come and help us get a couple of tasks done…I think it’s great to have students that want to serve in their community”
Linsenbigler mentioned how the department has grown over the years and how the development of the community has had an impact on the call volume for SVFD.
“We had three fire stations, now we have six…call volume is growing due to the rapidly growing area,” he said.
SVFD is a 501C3, non-profit that is mostly funded by donations from the community. SVFD serves throughout Blount, Knox, and Sevier county. They also provide fire education and training opportunities to the communities they serve.
“We do get some funding from the three counties that we serve but that’s not nearly enough, the rest of it has to come from the over 17,000 properties, businesses and residences that we cover,” Linsenbigler said. “Only about 24 percent donate and most people don’t understand and think that it is already paid through property taxes but we are not. All of our firefighters are volunteers.”
They also provide fire education and training opportunities to the communities they serve
SVFD is looking for all levels of volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering at SVFD can contact John Linsenbigler at jlinsen@SeymourVFD.com or vist the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department page.