KFD Could Stretch to County

Given the financial problems of the bankrupt Rural Metro, Knox County's private fire department, the county has had to look at contingency plans should the company no longer be able to provide service. And one of them being considered is turning county fire service over to the Knoxville Fire Department.

That contingency would cost an estimated $20 million to extend KFD out into the rural areas of the county and the cost might be prohibitive. Knox County could also look to another private fire company should the deal with Rural Metro not work out.

Three top officials for the company locally quit this month when their salaries were slashed. The company has told Knox County they will emerge from bankruptcy and can continue to provide the service. The only basis the county has to cancel the contract is slow response times, and a bankruptcy judge would be involved in any changes in the contract.

Rural Metro has promoted from within to replace departing managers. Jerry Harnish moved up from fire chief to regional manager and Gene Blaylock, an assistant chief, has been named Knox County fire chief.