Carla Jones Breaks Gender, Color Barriers at KFD

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Carla Jones breaks gender, color barriers at KFD

Thank you to for this article on our very own KFD Assistant Chief Carla Jones.

KFD Assistant Chief Carla JonesCarla Renee Jordan Jones is one flat-out character you’ll never forget. This is a life-loving, family-loving, job-loving and sports-loving woman. For 30 years come December 2024, she’s been serving the city she loves – Knoxville – in a job she treasures. “For me going to work every day is like going to the playground.”

Her playground is the Knoxville Fire Department (KFD). Life for her is wrapped around family first, then her God and church, and then the KFD. Her office sits across the hall at KFD Headquarters from Chief Stan Sharpe. In June 2020 she was the first woman and the first-ever black woman to be promoted to the position of KFD assistant chief. In this role, she has key supervisory responsibility for logistics, recruiting and ISO ratings for fire insurance.

Jones is 56 with plans to retire in two years, she says. After graduating from Holston High School, she did a little college but eventually began working at a Walgreens store on Magnolia Avenue in 1991. “I was the assistant store manager and we always had the firemen coming in for things,” she remembers. “One day I was talking with one of them (she could not remember his name) who told me the department was hiring and I should join.”

It piqued her interest. She thought about it. “I really like the firemen. They were like heroes to me. So, I decided to apply and it’s been the best job ever for me. How great is it to be a firefighter. This job opened up my eyes to so many things I could do,” she said.

Chief Carla JonesDuring her first 16 years at KFD she was a captain, a master firefighter, firefighter and an EMT. She rode the engines on calls like everyone else, living and working out of Station 13 (Chapman Highway), Station 10 (Sevier Avenue) and then at Station 16 (Asheville Highway) where she was promoted to captain. Following that promotion, she began working in the Fire Marshal’s Office as a fire inspector and fire officer. Those inspectors check for underground work construction to meet codes, plus fire alarms and sprinklers in commercial buildings and multi-story residential properties. It’s the business of the enforcement of the fire codes.

How would a co-worker describe her? Confident, humble, dependable, positive, efficient, easy to work with, handles business and great personality.

Her years of experience eased the way for her in the assistant chief’s job.

Logistics eats up about 80% of her time, she said. “We support the frontline workers, manage the remodeling of aging stations, deliver supplies to all 19 stations, like paper towels, toilet paper, even lawnmowers. We get them new TVs, furniture, washing machines and replace broken items plus we replace old or broken equipment on the engines and trucks. It’s a lot like doing the upkeep in your own home.”

Speaking of our home, Jones has been married to husband Kenny Jones for 24 years. From 1979-82 he played for the UT Vols football team (#99) and was drafted into the NFL by the Kansas City Chiefs. Today he works at Green Mountain Coffee.

They have a son, Kalen, 22, who works at KUB. He played football at Austin-East High School and was a walk-on at East Tennessee State University. She has a stepson, Kenneth, in Portsmouth, Virginia, “where my two precious grandsons live” – Keanu, 2, and Kai, 1.

The family worships at the Greater Warner AME Zion Church. She loves to spend time with the family, go on “girls’ trips” with her friends and read author James Patterson’s mysteries.

So, what makes Chief Jones tick and be so effective in her life?

“Carla is happy. I am a Christian woman, which makes me so happy. I’ve never come to work in a bad mood. I begin my day, every day, praying. You can call me captain or chief, but the best title I will ever have is mom.

“I love my job and there is not one day when I’ve not wanted to come to work. I’m very compassionate and my heart is with the homeless. I love sports, especially football. I know I’m the first black assistant chief but we really should not be having those kinds of firsts today. Chief Sharpe has put a lot of faith in me and I work every day to live up to his expectations. I also joke around with the best of ’em and I make sure I get them first.”