Jacob Nickles lives out lifelong dream of being a firefighter

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, February 12, 2020


STAR Correspondent

Jacob Nickles, a firefighter for the West Carter County Volunteer Fire Department, has been living out his dream for 13 years.

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“I tried thinking if there was any other job I ever wanted to do, and I really can’t think of anything,” he said.

One year after he graduated, he began volunteering. Nickles reached out to the now deputy chief, lieutenant at the time, of the station to find out how to begin volunteering. He was told to start coming around and he could begin. He says a lot has changed since then, however, with prospective volunteer firefighters now going through an interview panel.

Nickles said there have been so many fires since he began working for the station, but recalls how surreal that first fire felt.

“It’s been so long ago, but it was wild to see the fire and hear all the noises of people yelling at what to do and get this or that,” he said. “Me and someone who used to work here walked in and all of a sudden I said the floor felt spongy and he said we were getting out. The floor was actually getting ready to burn through.”

Despite working in such fires for over a decade, Nickles admits there is always a fear.

“I mean it’s scary and so are the dangers associated with that, like stuff falling on top of you or falling through something,” he said. “Luckily it’s never happened to me, but it has come close a couple of times. You just have to be aware of your surroundings. That’s the one thing, if you are ever not afraid, you’re just crazy.”

In combating fires, Nickles says he aims to save as much as he can for people. Likewise, he tries to be as composed as possible to get the job done.

“You can’t let your emotions get to you, or else you won’t be able to do this job,” he said.

With his work for the fire department, Nickles is regularly trained in scenarios like jumping out of buildings, aids in wrecks, helps in evacuations and teaches fire safety in schools.

In addition to being a volunteer firefighter, he is also a married father of two, who works as a wastewater treatment operator for Johnson City. Nickles says he manages to balance both his jobs around his scheduling and also has time for his children.

For Nickles, there is a lot of pride in being able to give back to the community and help people.

“While it’s a tough job, it is also a fun job,” he said. “It’s what I always wanted to do growing up, and now I get to do it every day.”