KINGSPORT — As a young man, Craig Dye never thought about becoming a firefighter, let alone chief of the fire department in his home town.
But he did become a firefighter and rose through the ranks over a 34-year career, ultimately becoming chief in 2004. Friday will be his last day with the department.
“It's been a good career,” Dye said on Monday. “I just fell into it really, and I think God just sent me that way.”
Dye grew up in the Sevier Terrace neighborhood of Kingsport, went through the city school system and graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 1976. He worked at the Times-News for a couple of years, attended classes at the ETSU University Center and at that time was trying to figure out what to do with his life.
Why did you become a firefighter?
“I didn't really know what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do. I took classes to be in school and kept up with studies. I tried business management, but I wanted to do something that meant something to me and to people.”
“I saw an ad in the paper for the fire department and put in an application. I never really thought about being a firefighter, but thought it sounded pretty good. I got a letter inviting me to take a written test at the Civic Auditorium, another letter to come for interviews and finally another letter saying (the department) decided they wanted me to come work for us.”
Time with the department
City Manager Jeff Fleming described Dye as a true Kingsport success story, that he presided during a time of expansive growth of the department and unprecedented city-county cooperation.
During Dye's watch, Kingsport built two new fire stations, invested $1.9 million into the countywide radio system, updated response protocols, built a new state-of-the-art 911 center and added a second active ladder truck to the department's fleet.
"Chief Dye leaves a positive legacy that will be felt for years to come,” Fleming said.
What are you most proud of?
“I'm proud of what the department has done,” Dye said. “For me and many others to become EMTs and then paramedics. Any type of rescue you see on TV — water, vehicle, high angle and collapsed — we were able to get classes on that and develop teams, the lifesaving crew at first, then it was absorbed into the fire department.”
Dye said he's proud the department obtained accreditation for the first time in 2000 and how the department has continued with its apparatus schedule.
Why retire now?
“It was an early retirement opportunity basically. There was an opportunity to retire. I could have retired at any time. Between my grandkids and a future grandchild, things that are going on in my life right now. I just wanted to be free to go do things rather than work.”
Are you going to miss the job?
“I'll miss the people. I've been off the line long enough I won't miss the adrenaline rush. It's not a giddy type of rush, you just get that rush where you're helping people, and it feels so good.”
“The things that bother me the most are when we lost people, in wrecks and stuff. Most of that I've erased. People don't understand. Even if you just see things happen it stays with you. So I think you should always respect first responders, be it volunteer or paid, police or fire, people should respect them because they don't know what they go through.”
What happens next?
The Municipal Technical Advisory Service, which provides advice and research to cities and towns across the state, will come in and offer an assessment center for Kingsport's next fire chief. Dye said only candidates from within the department will be considered for the chief's position.
Fleming said during the interim, Assistant Fire Chief Scott Boyd will fulfill the duties of managing the department.