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Black History Month: Morristown brothers reflect on their starts as firefighters

The two brothers combined have served more than 75 years in the firefighting industry.

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — Fewer than 7% of firefighters in the United States are Black, and in Tennessee, that number is even smaller. But two Morristown brothers are changing that statistic.

Mikki Goins and Shane Kyle grew up down the street from the Morristown Fire Department. So close, they remember watching the trucks drive by.

"As a young man, I used to sit down on my sidewalk. At the time, Mikki just started working for the fire department," Kyle said. "They actually trained in front of my house all the time. As I watched them I thought it was pretty cool and that I'd like to try it."

Goins joined the department first. Some of his friends in High School went to work for MFD, and Goins thought it would be a good fit for himself, too. He was right. Goins spent a little over 10 years at the Morristown Fire Department before taking another firefighting job at Y-12. 

He's been doing this job for over 42 years and is now the Battalion Chief at Y-12.

"It's an opportunity to meet a lot of people, and do good for people. Whether that means saving properties or most of all saving lives. It's rewarding," Goins said.

As Goins moved out of his position at MFD, his younger brother Kyle moved in. However, Kyle faced some unexpected challenges. 

"I had one guy say to me, the reason you're here is because we need Blacks and you fill the roster," Kyle said. "It was tough. The early years were tough because there were a lot older guys. It was tough. It really was."

Goins nodded. He experienced that too.

"I was worried about him. But, as he started to grow in the profession, he started learning the ins and outs," Goins said. "And then, he started moving up through the ranks, from Lieutenant to Captain and now he's a Battalion Chief."

Kyle has been with MFD for 32 years.

"I'm still here. I didn't let them run me out," Kyle said.

Over the years, the department adjusted to become very inclusive. Now, in positions of leadership both Goins and  Kyle can instill that standard of inclusion in hopes to recruit new, diverse firefighters to the team.

 "There's very few Black firefighters in the community here and in this area of East Tennessee," Goins said. "I wish more young folks would come into the position because it's an outstanding job, it's an outstanding career and there are a lot of opportunities out there for growth."

Fire departments across the state of Tennessee are looking for new recruits.

If you have an interest in joining the team at the Morristown Fire Department, you can learn more here.

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