Fire Chief Phil Fritts said Freeman has been a firefighter for over 10 years in Jonesborough, Tittle for over five years. Both men started as reserve firefighters before gaining full-time positions.
“It’s a difficult test,” said Fritts. “Let me put it this way, when I took the test, I had never failed a test in my life. I failed the first time.”
Things are different now. Freeman and Tittle took part in a two-week training course before the exam. Both men passed on their first attempt, still a rare accomplishment. Fritts says the class helps, but it is still a very difficult exam.
Freeman’s challenge during the exam was switching from fire suppression to fire prevention. One has to step out of a tactical mindset and adopt a planning mind. Fire prevention will help lift the load on the fire department. Fritts has typically been the only fire inspector for Jonesborough before now.
“We are going to increase our inspection program,” Freeman said. “We want to reduce the fire load in Jonesborough. That is one of my goals and one of the chief’s goals.”
Career progression was not the only driving force for Freeman to become a fire inspector. Fighting fires is a family business.
“My father started out as a volunteer firefighter,” Freeman said. “He worked his way up into a career fire department. That was one of his certifications. I kind of wanted to follow in his footsteps. He was my example that pushed me into fire service and made me who I am today.”
There are higher levels of certification for the new fire inspectors. Fritts can foresee these two men advancing too. He has been a firefighter for 34 years and noted his career is winding down. He plans to mentor Freeman and Tittle to further develop the men.
“This is very important,” Fritts said. “Knowledge of the code book and the job is one thing. If you don’t have the personality where you can sit down and talk to people without causing offense … (shakes head side-to-side). You know there is a way to go to people and say, ‘hey, you need to do this and you need to do this,’ without challenging them.”
Fritts is confident in his new fire inspectors. He says they know their stuff and are good men. Both men were enjoying some time off at the time of this interview. Probably warranted after being away from family and friends.
Fritts plans to work with the building inspector to make them well-rounded individuals. According to the chief, fire prevention works and Jonesborough is safer with Freeman and Tittle as the newest fire inspectors.