Dinah Wade is a librarian at Freedom Intermediate School and the 2019 Mid-Cumberland Core 5-8 Teacher of the Year.
Adam Wade is a Franklin Police officer. In their off time, they both volunteer with the Williamson County Rescue Squad.
Dinah has been teaching for 15 years. She was a classroom teacher at Johnson Elementary School for 10 years.
“I always loved my teachers,” she said. “I had a great school experience and wanted to be like them with other children. (At Johnson Elementary), I got to teach with a lot of teachers who taught me.”
Dinah also works part time with Evelyn Hickerson and the Gentry’s Educational Foundation providing tutoring and enrichment opportunities for students.
Adam always wanted to be a firefighter. He joined the Williamson County Rescue Squad, an all-volunteer department, in 2004, when he was a freshman in college. His plan was to one day work with a paid fire department.
But plans change.
In 2007, when he graduated from college, “the competition was fierce” for the few openings in paid fire departments.
“I decided to apply to a police department,” he said. “People call the firefighter service or law enforcement when situations in life get beyond their control. I enjoy helping bring things back under control, whether we’re talking about the criminal justice system, a house fire or a medical emergency. It’s a sense of fulfillment.”
Adam got a job with the Murfreesboro Police Department. “It’s a different type of public service, but I really enjoy it,” he said.
After working in Murfreesboro for five years, Adam accepted a position with the Franklin Police Department and returned to the town where he was born and raised.
Dinah never considered firefighting as a career option — paid or volunteer — until she started dating Adam.
“I’d go with him to hang out at the West Main Street fire station (now on Downs Boulevard),” she said. “I hated it in the beginning, but the more we hung around, the more I thought it might work out.”
Dinah joined the rescue squad almost 12 years ago.
Although there’s always someone at the rescue squad stations, it’s not fully staffed, so, for efficiency and quicker response, the volunteers carry their gear in their vehicles.
“I’m known as the cop who drives a fire truck,” Adam said. “A lot of times I hop in the (fire) truck in full police uniform.”
Adam said that during the years they’ve been with the rescue squad, they “have gained skills we can use anywhere.”
“There are countless times I use my medical or fire training on my police job,” he said. “When I tell someone who is afraid of police officers that I’m also a firefighter, it breaks the law enforcement barrier.”
And there are times he uses his police skills on fire calls.
According to Adam, that’s the beauty of an all-volunteer fire department. Everyone involved — whether lawyers, doctors, CPAs, farmers, musicians, plumbers, electricians, teachers — does something else, and they bring their external experience and talents to the fire station and on calls.
When a water pipe broke and flooded a trailer, they were able to not only stop the water flow but also help get the break fixed.
“People at the lower end of the socio-economic scale may not have insurance,” Adam said. “Something like that affects them differently (than someone who does have insurance).”
Dinah tends to be the person who calms adults or kids who have been involved in an incident.
“As a teacher, she knows how to talk to kids,” Adam said. “I see them relax and respond so much better.”
Dinah often teaches fire-safety classes to students in the Franklin Special School District, frequently teaming up with Jamie Melton, the Franklin Fire Department’s fire and live safety educator.
“When I go to talk to pre-K classes about firefighters,” Dinah said, “I put on my gear one piece at a time so they can see the transfer. Then I put on the air pack. That’s scary, especially the sound.”
Two years ago, while working with Melton, Dinah began a book program that involved the fire and police departments. During the school district’s book fairs, she requests donations of either book fair books or money to purchase book fair books. They then distribute the books to local fire stations and the police department for firefighters and police officers to pass out to children in an effort to encourage reading.
“Kids are always asking for sticker badges,” Adam said. “It’s nice to give something lasting they can take home. A lot of kids I come across don’t have books at home.”
The Wades are more than firefighters, they are EMTs and members of the rescue squad board of directors, where they see the other side of firefighting.
When asked why they are firefighters, they don’t hesitate to answer.
“If I don’t, who will?” they said in unison.
“Is it dangerous? Yes, but we get great training and we’re used to (the danger), ” Dinah said.
“People spend time on social media and watching television,” Adam added. “This is what we spend our time doing.”
Dinah added, “It’s how we spend time together.”
And their children are with them at the fire station witnessing the volunteer spirit their parents and other volunteers model.
“The unique thing is we couldn’t see us doing anything else,” Adam said.
Carole Robinson may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.