Ledeker brings fresh perspective to Holiday Island Fire Department
“You go through some things you hadn’t planned and life takes you in a different direction,” Holiday Island fire chief Chris Ledeker says on an overcast Friday morning. “That’s how it works.”
For Ledeker, who started working at the Holiday Island Fire Department in January, life has gone in many different directions. Ledeker remembered everything that led up to his current role at the Holiday Island Fire Department, saying he once dreamed of having a baseball career. When that didn’t work out, Ledeker said, he worked for an electric supply company.
“I got laid off and decided to become a first responder,” Ledeker said. “That’s how my career started — getting laid off and going to church with a couple of firefighters.”
Since 2009, Ledeker said, he has worked at several fire departments throughout the Northwest Arkansas region. He’d often finish a shift at one department and start a shift at another one, Ledeker said.
“Basically on my days off, I worked somewhere else,” Ledeker said. “I really put the time in to get the experience.”
He then earned his bachelor’s degree in first responder administration and, just last year, earned his master’s degree in public administration. He has completed many certification courses through the years, Ledeker said.
“There’s only a couple more that I need, but there’s so many things you need to learn in the fire service that I never stop learning,” Ledeker said. “We don’t only do fire and EMS. We do hazmat and rescue.”
Technology is constantly evolving, Ledeker said, and he makes sure to keep up with it. Ledeker said he’s excited to upgrade some of the equipment at the fire department such as the communications system.
“We need to figure out how to communicate better with each other, so we’re looking at upgrading our radio communications,” Ledeker said.
He said some of the older equipment needs an upgrade, too. Ledeker said he’d love to upgrade the extrication equipment to make it safer for first responders to help with vehicle accidents. He noticed the need for improved equipment during the winter storm in February, Ledeker said, when the fire department responded to more than 60 calls in two weeks. To compare, the department responded to 54 calls for the entire month of January.
“It was pretty significant,” Ledeker said. “It definitely kept us busy. That’s when we discovered some of our tools weren’t up to the technology they have now, so we discovered that we really need to purchase some new equipment.”
Ledeker continued, “It was a learning experience for us and it actually helped us out. Everything went really well. The street department and the water department and just everybody worked together so well. That was awesome.”
Ledeker said the department responded to bring people water, shovel driveways and help those who fell on the ice. The department also helped to ensure that emergency shelters at a local church and the clubhouse were ready to help if necessary. Though the shelters were never used, Ledeker said, it was a relief to have the option.
“Not many that I heard of lost power, but if it was going to get to that point where we needed to open the shelters, we were ready,” Ledeker said.
What drew him to Holiday Island, Ledeker said, is the community spirit. Ledeker said he has lived and worked in many different communities, but Holiday Island is special.
“You don’t see some of this stuff in different communities that you see here,” Ledeker said. “People are so generous with donations and offering their time and being able to help. I’ve never seen a community where they give their time as much as Holiday Island does. It’s fantastic.”
Ledeker added, “People here get so involved to help others, especially in their time of need during that snowstorm. I’ve never seen that before. We’re pretty blessed and lucky that people do that up here.”
Another reason he loves his job, Ledeker said, is the supportive crew.
“Any time a new chief comes in, we’re going to learn them as much as our personnel is going to learn us,” Ledeker said. “I think I brought a different type of culture. I’m used to more technology and I brought in different ideas based on my certification, education and experience.”
So far, Ledeker said, his ideas have been well-received at the department. One big change he is making, Ledeker said, is moving toward 48-hour shifts.
“You work 48 hours and then you’re off four days. There’s so many benefits to that,” Ledeker said. “You get a chance to spend more time with your family, and when you come back to work you don’t feel like you’re worn out.”
Ledeker said he’s excited for what the future has in store.
“I feel very blessed to be here and I am looking forward to the things I see happening,” Ledeker said.