Ludlow's Dreyer is Kentucky Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year

When Rob Dreyer was named Ludlow Fire Chief in 2012, the department was strictly volunteer and using outdated equipment.

The previous system allowed for the volunteer firefighters to elect their own chief.

Under the leadership of Mayor Ken Wynn and City Administrator Brian Richmond, Ludlow made a move to professionalize its fire department. Dreyer was tapped to take the reins.

The work Dreyer has put towards changing the philosophy and infrastructure within the Ludlow Fire Department earned him recognition as the Kentucky Fire Chief's Association Volunteer Chief of the Year. (Departments with less than fifty percent paid employees are considered volunteer.)

He'll receive the award during a ceremony in Bowling Green on January 25.

"It's been a big change going from being a volunteer department," Dreyer said. "It's been a huge difference in the way we provide services to the citizens of Ludlow."

The restructuring of the fire department created the position of part-time chief, a position now held by Dreyer and also added paid positions of three full time paramedics and some part-time firefighters/EMTs within the 40-member department. Having the firehouse staffed with professionals on standby has ensured that ambulances arrive to their calls within four minutes, ninety-five percent of the time, Dreyer said.

"Professionalism was lacking," Richmond said of the fire department. "Rob brought that."

Richmond was only on the job in Ludlow for a week when he decided something needed to change at the fire department. "It needed a leader, not just a volunteer. Someone we needed to pay so we could hold him accountable," he said. 

Dreyer was one of several applicants for job but his experience as a professional firefighter in Covington (where he retired) and as chief in Park Hills and Edgewood set him apart.

"Some of us knew right away that Rob was the right choice," Richmond said. "It was unanimous."

The committee that vetted the applicants included members of the volunteer fire department, something important to Dreyer who said those guys could have not supported him in light of all the forthcoming changes. But the department has rallied behind its new system and its new chief.

In eighteen months, Dreyer has secured more than $600,000 in grant money, allowing the City to purchase a new pumper and other equipment. The firehouse has been updated and the firefighters are better trained. Vehicles used in Ludlow for three decades were replaced by new ones, acquired through bargain leases negotiated by Chief Dreyer.

"We've been able to accomplish a lot in a short period of time," Dreyer said.

But it's been a long time that Dreyer has been in the business of putting out fires. It's in his blood. Dreyer's grandfather was a founding member of the Park Hills Fire Department and served as chief there. His father was on the life squad in that city. Dreyer became a professional firefighter at 25 and eventually retired as a Covington firefighter before taking on administrative roles in other Northern Kentucky cities.

His arrival in Ludlow has changed the face of the department in the city.

"I can't imagine where we'd be because what he's done has been nothing short of amazing," Richmond said.

The professional relationship between Richmond and Dreyer has been helpful in the process, too.

"I look at (Richmond) and I as a team," Dreyer said. "I prefer to be told, this is what needs to be done and then I go do it. That's the relationship we have."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Ludlow Fire Chief Rob Dreyer/RCN