Leyden fire chief no stranger to job or area
Although he rarely goes out on fire calls now, Leyden Fire Chief Kory Ryan still misses those moments sometimes. After 20 years with the department, Ryan was named chief last September. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:15AM
FRANKLIN PARK — Though an alarm is ringing and firefighters are rushing to their vehicles to respond to a call somewhere on Grand Avenue, Kory Ryan sits still.
It’s a Tuesday morning, and he’s in the conference room at the Leyden Fire Station.
As chief, Ryan doesn’t have to head out on every run.
“It took me a while to get used to that,” he said, laughing. “I jumped every time the tones went off.”
Ryan has worked in the Leyden Fire Protection District since 1992. In September, he became chief. He oversees 13 full-time firemen, 10 paid-on-call firemen, and six paramedics.
He also has to keep an eye on an annual budget of about $3 million as well as decide how much of a tax levy to seek every year.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I grew up in Franklin Park. I went to South School, Hester Junior High and Holy Cross in River Grove.
Q: Any firefighters in your family?
A: A good friend of my dad’s was a Chicago fireman. I used to go downtown to the city and see him all the time. I got kind of a taste for it there and realized it was something I wanted to do.
Q: Did you go to college?
A: My parents stressed education. I earned an associate’s from Triton and a bachelor’s in fine arts from Northern Illinois University. I worked at Sears for a while doing architectural design for their stores. But I always had in the back of my head that this is what I wanted to do.
Q: You started as a firefighter at Leyden Fire Protection District?
A: In 1992. The station was originally on Grand Avenue, on the Tukaiz site. After a year of paid-on-call (firefighting), a couple guys retired and I was hired.
Q: Any memorable calls from your earlier years?
A: There was a shooting right on Mannheim. I think I had only been on my first or second shift. I think it was a dispute over a poker game. One survived and one was shot in the head. There was another shooting on Crown Road where a 10-year-old girl dies. The memorial is still up over there. That was 15 or 20 years ago.
Q: How’s it different being chief rather than lieutenant?
A: It’s definitely an adjustment. You kind of go from being one of the guys to being the boss. Working 9 to 5 is a little different than being on shift. It’s nice being home with my wife and kids every night though I miss the camaraderie of being on shift with the guys.
Q: What skills and knowledge does a chief need above and beyond what a firefighter needs?
A: Dealing with the public. People skills. It’s definitely more administrative than being a firefighter. You’re basically running a biz here. You have a budget, certain amount to spend.
Q: How’s Leyden Fire Protection District different from other fire departments?
A: We’re our own taxing body. We do our own budget, our own levy. That took a lot of getting used to and a lot of learning. Chief Rafferty, he stayed on for the last six months to help get me through it.
Q: Now that you are generally not going out on calls, what do you do on a day-to-day basis?
A: Every day I’m checking to make sure we’re getting funding from Cook County to make payroll and pay bills. We’re going to have to get some polices out there for cell phones and social media. There’s a lot of liability with laws . . . where you can’t put out a person’s personal information.
Q: What do most people not know about the Leyden Fire Protection District?
A: Our mailing address is in Franklin Park. We also cover unincorporated parts of Bensenville, parts of Northlake and parts of Franklin Park
Q: How has fire fighting changed in your years on the job?
A: I don’t think the fire fighting has changed but the technology and equipment has. The air packs we’re using are state of the art. Thermal imaging cameras where you can see through the smoke. The medical calls have increased but we still get some pretty significant fires.
Q; How’s being the chief so far?
A: My days fly by. I thought I’d just be sitting in an office and I look up at the clock and its 5 or 5:40.