As a youngster, Darrell Meares was so intrigued by fire trucks that he would race down the street in search of the giant engines any time he heard the distinct sound of sirens, then standby and watch as those onboard unfurled their hoses and went to work. So when a friend offered him the chance to join a volunteer fire department – even though he was enrolled in college and pursuing a degree in psychology at the time – he found time in his busy schedule to give it a try.
Fast forward to 2022.
Capt. Darrell Meares is now a firefighter, paramedic, and assistant EMS director for the Bristol Tennessee Fire Department. Additionally, he serves as program coordinator and educator for the BTFD’s Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (AEMT) Training Program. He completed his bachelor’s degree in psychology back in the day and later earned a master’s degree in Occupational Safety & Health. He’s also certified in swift-water rescue, hazardous materials containment, and a long list of other specialized skills that can make a real difference to those who find themselves in sticky situations.
A native of Florida, Capt. Meares moved to Bristol at the age of 8 and is a graduate of Virginia High School. His original career plan was to be a psychotherapist for firefighters and EMS personnel, helping them deal with the stress they encountered on the job, hence that psychology degree. He never seriously considered firefighting as a full-time career, he said, until he discovered how much he enjoyed his volunteer gig with Washington County Fire & Rescue. Of course, he needed a job after graduation, so he couldn’t resist in February 1997 when the BTFD offered him a full-time position. Training began immediately.
He became a certified firefighter and, in the succeeding years, a certified paramedic. Today he charged with overseeing inventory and patient protocols as Assistant EMS Director for the department. A few years ago, he took the bold step of establishing an Advanced EMT Training program within the department and, since January 2020, he and his team of instructors have provided EMT and Advanced EMT training for 22 within the BTFD and nearby departments. He serves as both program coordinator and educator for this program, which is the first of its kind in Tennessee.
Despite all his medical training – training that allows him to administer advanced life support at the scene and on the way to the hospital – he still suits up for fire calls and loves that part of his job. In fact, while off duty recently, he rescued a man from a burning building and provided aid until an ambulance arrived. That’s a story for another day.
“I like the people that I work with and the camaraderie that comes with being part of this department,” he said. “You see a lot of bad stuff in this job, because people only call you when they’re in a predicament. It helps when you work with your friends, and you’re able to spend down time together.”
Away from the station, Capt. Meares enjoys fishing, hiking, camping, traveling, and being a husband and father. His wife of 16 years, Corina, is a nurse practitioner who he met while transporting patients to the emergency room. Their common interest in emergency medicine drew them together, he said. When they found out they were about to become parents, he vowed to be a full-time dad who wouldn’t miss the special moments in life. He’s honored that promise by spending alone time with each of his daughters, exploring their unique interests and making memories.
The oldest, Fairyn, is a gifted athlete who competed in gymnastics for many years. To cover the expense of long training sessions, Capt. Meares took a job cleaning the gym. Now that Fairyn is on the track and field team at Tennessee High School, he spends afternoons watching her compete in discus and pole vault. Preslon, the younger of the two Meares daughters, is a gifted saxophonist, chess player, and history buff. She and her dad enjoy a good game of chess, although he admits he rarely wins, and visiting Civil War sites like Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Antietam, and Chickamauga.
As we celebrate National EMS Week, the City of Bristol Tennessee sends a giant shout out to Capt. Darrell Meares of the Bristol Tennessee Fire Department for the many hats he wears – both at the station and at home with his family - and the many contributions he makes to our community as a dedicated first responder. He’s another great example of #BristolatWork.