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'It's bittersweet': Zoneton Fire names new chief after loss of two former leaders to COVID-19 and cancer

Kevin Moulton, a 24-year veteran of the fire department, will succeed the late Chief Rob Orkies, who passed away in December.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Zoneton Fire Protection District has officially named a new fire chief. The department announced Tuesday that Kevin Moulton, a 24-year veteran with Zoneton, will succeed the late Chief Rob Orkies, who died unexpectedly last year.

According to the department, Moulton started his service with Zoneton as a volunteer in 1997. He was hired as a firefighter in St. Matthews but continued to volunteer with Zoneton.

Ten years ago, Moulton was hired as Zoneton's first full-time fire marshal.

It's a role Moulton said he's always wanted, and worked for, but he didn't want to earn it this way. 

"How and where we are right now, that's the heartbreaking part of it. I wish it didn't have to happen that way," Moulton said Tuesday night. 

Moulton succeeds two long-time Zoneton Fire leaders. Former Chief Rob Orkies died in Dec. 2020 after contracting the coronavirus during his battle with cancer. Orkies held the role of chief since 2003.

Just two months later,  acting chief, battalion chief Mjr. Garry Key passed away after a month long fight with COVID-19.

Key was the longest serving volunteer member of the department.

"While we greatly miss Chief Orkies, the fire district has to move forward in serving our community," said Board of Trustees Secretary James Yates. Yates said Moulton was chosen by a committee that looked through many candidates within the department.

"It's bittersweet to be able to fill the shoes that are so big here for Zoneton Fire," Moulton said. "And honoring to be able to step into their footsteps and continue on their legacy." 

Moulton said the department has been in a "standstill" ever since, but is now able to start putting pieces back together and begin moving forward.

"Putting on your boots, pulling up your bunker pants and getting on these big red fire trucks, that's what those two men wanted," Moulton said. "That's what we're doing it for, were doing it to honor those two men."

Moulton said he knows now one of his challenges will be lifting up the morale of the department.

“It’s going to be a big task and I can’t do it alone. I’m going to have to have these members help me,” Moulton said.

Making it easier along the way Moulton said, is the community's support for Zoneton Fire.

"The community has had our back when we've been down at our lowest here," he said. "When they need us the most, we're going to be there.”

His focus now is on the fire department continuing its tradition of service.

“We’re going to be a community-oriented fire department. If they want to come in and talk, our door is open. It’s their building we’ll have coffee on the coffee pot,” he said. “I want them to know we’re going to step it up. You’re going to see us and you might see us more out there in the community.”

Moulton plans for the department to continue all of its outreach programs on fire safety, smoke detectors, and holiday events.

He also encourages the public to attend the fire department's board meeting on the first Tuesday of every month at 7 p.m. They are open to anyone who wants to hear the latest developments with Zoneton Fire. 

Moulton also said there are a few projects former Chief Orkies wanted to accomplish, like the building of a new training facility and replacing one of the departments fire trucks. Moulton said he plans to follow those through.

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