Firefighter following in his family's footsteps

Tennessee Firefighter Walks in His Family’s Footsteps

Marcus Dykes grew up in a family of firefighters. His mother worked as a volunteer, while his grandfather served as a captain.

“At the time still being pretty young, I was pretty impressed with my mom,” Dykes said. “I admired her for being a firefighter.”

It seemed like that would be his destiny from an early age, but a tragic event almost led him away from the fire station for good. In 1988, his grandfather was killed in the line of duty. Dykes called it a traumatic moment.

As an adult, Captain Dykes is now a paramedic and a firefighter. He's moved into the family business, demanding daily excellence from himself and his crew.

An Icy Road Changed the Family Forever

It was the night of January 5, 1988. Dykes’ grandfather had joined the Kingsport Fire Department in 1966 to serve his community. He was promoted to Engineer after four years and made Captain in 1983.

There was a structure fire that night. Berry got his crew out of the station to respond.

Charlie Berry would be critically injured when the engine was involved in an accident on the slick roads, becoming the third Kingsport firefighter to be killed with the fire department. Ray Hicks died battling a fire on Sullivan Street in 1949, while Denver Lisenby had a heart attack while en route to provide mutual aid in 1972. [[1]]

Lisenby was a hero in his own right before becoming a firefighter, earning 11 bronze stars in World War II as a bomber pilot.

Marcus was only nine years old at the time of his grandfather’s death, but he says that the experience influenced his approach to helping the people of Kingsport. [[2]] [[3]]

“I try… to be the best employee or best fireman, the best paramedic, the best office I can be,” he said. “If I have an emergency, that’s who I would want. That’s who I would want coming to aid me or my family.”

The stories show that serving others is more than a tradition in Kingsport. It’s a way of life.

Dykes Has Served His Community for Over 20 Years

The philosophy of Marcus Dykes is relatively simple. Preparation matters. Trust makes a difference.

“We deal with the cause that people are slowing down to take a look and wonder what’s going on,” Dykes said. “We’re in there trying to stabilize these situations.”

The high standards that Dykes sets for his team are what make a difference. They trust each other, lean on one another, and rely on their training when heading into potentially dangerous situations.

When working as an EMT or a firefighter, you can face several hazardous conditions on each call. There might be an unsafe structure to enter, traffic to navigate, or dangerous situations to face.

Dykes says that the people who understand the risks they face the most are the ones typically best equipped to handle them.

That process looks a little different for everyone. Dykes ensures that he’s always up to date on his safety certifications. His crews complete daily maintenance tasks and cleaning chores around the station. Each part of a firefighter’s routine is crucial to keep them prepared and safe if an emergency occurs.

It’s a career that almost didn’t happen. “Coming out of high school, I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go with my life,” Dykes said. “As I made connections with firemen through my mom, firefighting starting to come into focus for me.”

“At that point, I knew I was all in.”

His grandfather served 21 years with the Kingsport Fire Department before his death. Marcus accomplishes the same feat in 2022 while achieving the same rank.

The parallels aren't lost on him on Marcus.

“It’s surreal to know that I’ve been here as long as him, and served as a captain like he did,” Dykes said. “With age, the feeling of wanting to make him proud has come more into focus.”

After all this time, Dykes knows where he was meant to be. He is a Kingsport firefighter, a role that his mother and grandfather served before him. It's more than an income or a chance to honor the family name. It’s a chance to be serving others in the best job he could have ever imagined. His goal is to continue his family's legacy of public service for many more years to come.

That's the definition of a hero.


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Photo Credit: Marcus Dykes HH pic/