West Carter County Volunteer Fire Department has first all-female duty crew in region

John Thompson • Updated Feb 26, 2019 at 11:00 PM

ELIZABETHTON — The West Carter County Volunteer Fire Department’s firefighters are a proud group, proud of their department and proud of the important service they provide their community.

But a group of firefighters within the organization might be even more proud. That’s because they are believed to make up the first all-female duty crew in the region.

Firefighters Carol Jones, Ashlee Connor Perdue, Krysten Kelch and Amber Hubbard make up the crew.

Perdue said the four had already decided on which roles they would perform, such as engineer. She said they were preparing to do those jobs as they waited for an alarm.

West Carter County Fire Chief David Jones said the department has always kept a duty crew on at night in order to provide a quicker response time. That is an unbroken record going back to the fire department’s founding in 1970.

Women have often been at the fire hall during the night while the duty crew passed the hours, but those women have traditionally been the wives of duty crew members, there to support their husbands.

Carol Jones, David’s wife, was one of those wives who supported her husband when he was on duty crew.

She was also very curious about the work of a firefighter and began studying to qualify. Her interest came naturally: not only was her husband a volunteer firefighter, but her father-in-law was Conley Jones, who served as chief of the department for 44 years.

Carol and David’s daughter, Ashlee Perdue, was even more of a natural. Her parents said she was helping out around the station and expressing interest in firefighting when she was still a very young girl. Even after she was married, she kept her middle name, Connor, because it was her grandfather’s name.

Kelch said she was interested in firefighting as a girl. That interest faded, but was resurrected when she married volunteer firefighter John Kelch. Of course, sharing her husband’s interest made it enjoyable for both of them, but now her interest in firefighting has helped her maintain friendships at a time when her husband is not around.

John is in the military and was deployed to Poland for a year. During that time, Krysten has enjoyed being with the firefighting friends.

Hubbard, the fourth member of the crew, is also married to a volunteer firefighter, Josh Hubbard. She is also a nurse, providing yet another important skill to the firefighters and the victims.

The chief said he was pleased with the accomplishments of the women, noting many hours of training must be completed to become a firefighter and to reach various skill levels.