Twinsburg Should 'Feel Lucky' to Have Firefighter John Knaus
On- or off-the-clock, going above and beyond the call of duty is just another day for him.
Ask someone who their favorite superhero was growing up and you'll probably get answers ranging from Batman to Spiderman. But Twinsburg firefighter John Knaus didn't idolize the typical crimefighters.
"Clint Eastwood," Knaus laughed. "I loved Dirty Harry."
Knaus, who also works part-time for the Aurora Police Department, embodies some of the admirable qualities of the famous Detective Callahan, like chasing after the bad guy, even when he's off-duty.
For example, on one of his few days off work several years ago, Knaus was hanging out at his Twinsburg home when he saw police cars going up and down his street. His police scanner told him officers were chasing on foot a man wanted on a felony warrant. Instead of letting others have all the fun, Knaus took action.
“I thought, ‘This is my neighborhood too,’ so I went for a walk,” he said. He started off on a wooded trail behind Dodge Intermediate School, when the man started walking straight to him.
“He doesn’t realize I’m standing right there,” Knaus said. “So I pulled him out at gunpoint and took him down.” He waited with the man until other officers showed up to finish the arrest.
Between working full-time at the Twinsburg Fire Department -- where he also serves as the union president -- and part-time for Aurora PD, it's not uncommon for Knaus to put in 60 hours a week.
This lifestyle is far from what Knaus originally thought of doing with his life. His first career aspiration was to be a pharmacist, until Knaus realized he needed more than a desk and an office.
“Sitting in an office all day wasn’t me; I’d lose my mind," he said. "I wanted to be outside and doing something different where I can help people.”
And help people he has.
Nearly a decade ago, Knaus and his fellow firefighters were watching the skies during a thunderstorm when a tornado hit the city. After the storm, several two-person crews went out to make sure people were OK. As Knaus and his partner drove down Silverdale Circle, they discovered a home that had been destroyed.
“The house was completely missing,” he said. "There was nothing but rubble. But we heard people in the basement.”
Tucked away in the only stable corner of the basement, Knaus found a family with a newborn baby, and led them all up to safety.
“Luckily they were down there and not upstairs or somewhere else,” he said.
Possibly the best tale of Knaus' heroics was over Christmas last year.
During a medical aid call to an elderly couple's Glenwood Drive home Jim Nix, a Solon firefighter and union president, told Knaus of their terrible living conditions, including a mold-covered ceiling and an almost non-existent roof.
“This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Knaus said. He’s seen his fair share of rundown homes in his career, but this case was different.
“They met every bad circumstance you could find: No family, no money, no nothing,” he said. “That’s why we really pushed to do something for them.”
He led the charge, taking his holiday and vacation hours to help work on the home with other volunteers from Twinsburg and Solon, to make the home livable again.
“It just took off,” he said. “I was getting phone calls day and night from people wanting to help out and donate.”
"John is typical of people in the fire service where he is often willing to give extra effort in helping others," Twinsburg Fire Chief Richard Racine said. He described Knaus as "easy-going, sincere and open-minded," which not only helps him be an "excellent" firefighter and paramedic, but also makes him a great leader.
After fighting fires and catching criminals for nearly 20 years, Knaus said he’s just about seen it all. He did admit though that he still gets the occasional adrenaline rush from some calls.
While he admits to several "heroic" acts, Knaus believes he's no more of a hero than any of the other men and women who serve as police officers and firefighters, constantly risking their lives to help others.