Winchester’s Whiteley named Kentucky Fire Chief of the Year

Published 2:00 pm Friday, September 1, 2023

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Whether at local meetings or on-site, attending emergencies, Winchester Fire Chief Chris Whiteley has become a familiar presence throughout the community.

Others throughout the state have noticed as well.

Chief Whiteley has been named Kentucky Fire Chief of the Year by the Kentucky Association of Fire Chiefs.

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“[I’m] very humbled and honored, especially receiving it in a room full of so many deserving people, some who probably deserved it more than I did,” Whitely said. “[I’m] just shocked, excited, [and] really overcome with emotions.”

The award was given at the organization’s 2023 Leadership Conference, a yearly event in the last week of August that this year occurred in Bowling Green from Aug. 22 – 24.

Not one to seek attention, Whiteley attended the ceremony prepared to honor another.

Having brought his Class A uniform, commonly reserved for special occasions such as award ceremonies, weddings, funerals, and more, Whiteley was ready to recognize and speak on behalf of former Winchester Fire Chief Danny Castle – who is retiring from the position of executive director of the Kentucky Association of Fire Chiefs.

On the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 23, after the Volunteer of the Year and Career Chief of the Year Awards were given out, Castle started reading the accomplishments of the Kentucky Fire Chief of the Year.

“As [he] started talking, I thought, ‘Either I have a twin in this room, or he’s talking about me,’” acknowledged Whiteley. “The longer he went on, the more I realized it was me.”

Yet Whitely wasn’t alone.

“I turned around, and Mayor Reed, [City Manager Mike] Flynn, Major [Jacob] Allen, Lieutenant [Nick] Riggs, and my wife were all in the back,” Whitely. “You can imagine the emotions and the shock that I felt.”

Speaking of the award, Whiteley mentioned that many points are considered – including the strength of infrastructure and apparatus or the technical equipment necessary.

The Winchester Fire Department has also undergone several organizational restructures during the last few years, and hiring has increased since Whiteley took over the position.

However, he was quick to defer credit.

“These awards…they’re typically not about that one person. It’s about a whole lot of people,” Whiteley added. “It’s about the community supporting the fire department. It’s about city administration supporting us and giving us the tools and resources, and…it’s certainly about the Winchester fire personnel that…act on this, and they act every day. It’s truly a reflection of us all.”

Whiteley pointed to a recent Winchester Board of Commissioners meeting – in which Lt. Ethan Brogli was recognized with the Winchester Fire Department’s Certificate of Commendation – as a positive example set by other fire personnel.

He also acknowledged their involvement during the last few years in supporting those in and out of the community impacted by flooding, tornadoes and other adverse challenges.

“I’m humbled to receive the award on behalf of the Winchester Fire Department but it’s a reflection of the men and women under my command,” Whitely said. “It’s a reflection of their effort every day [and] their professionalism.”

Whiteley also hoped it would help others take notice of Winchester.

“I’m very proud for the city of Winchester,” he said. “I hope it brings a positive light on what we’re doing.”