How far back new Fire Chief’s roots? 1920s horse-drawn ladder wagon


Photo 1: Chief Corey Deye. (Photo used courtesy of Katie Woodring).

Photo 2: Members of the Covington Board of Commissioners pose with Covington Fire’s new chiefs after the votes on their promotions. From left, Vice Mayor/City Commissioner Ron Washington, Commissioner Tim Downing, Deputy Chief James “Jimmy” Adams, Chief Corey Deye, Mayor Joe Meyer, Commissioner Shannon Smith, and Commissioner Steve Hayden.

Photo 3: Corey Deye’s great grandfather, Henry Deye. (Photo provided by the Deye family.)

Photo 4: A 1921 photo showing Henry Deye, far left, holding the reins and driving a Covington Fire Department ladder wagon. (Photo used courtesy of the Kenton County Public Library.)

Deye named chief, Adams promoted to deputy

COVINGTON, Ky. – When Corey Deye assesses what it means to be named Covington’s new Fire Chief, he points to a historic photograph buried in the electronic archives of the Kenton County Public Library.

Snapped in 1921, the photo shows a ladder wagon pulled by two horses traveling down a Covington street. Five men are standing on the wagon’s running board, and two men more are sitting on its front seat.

The one holding the reins and “driving” the wagon is Henry Deye. Corey’s great-grandfather.

“It’s neat to me to carry on a family tradition at Covington’s Fire Department that dates back more than 100 years,” says Deye, whose grandparents and parents grew up in the Peaselburg neighborhood.

But it’s not only the ties of his personal family to which he gives gratitude. It’s also the ties to his “work family.”

Both to the Covington Board of Commissioners on Tuesday and to City colleagues, Deye took time to salute the chiefs and firefighters who served before him, including the man he succeeded, Mark Pierce, saying the capacity and performance of the Department is a testament to a willingness to adapt, change, improve, and work together.

“I want to thank the people of the past, the chiefs and retired guys who built this department,” Deye said. “We wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for the people of the past.”

And that admiration and respect, he said, will motivate and guide his leadership: “I want the modern Fire Department serving today to be looked at years from now the same way we today look back at those who came before us.”

The Commission voted 5-0 to promote Deye, who had taken over as Deputy Chief (and second in command) on Jan. 1 and has been serving as interim chief since Mark Pierce recently retired. To replace Deye as Deputy Chief, the Commission on Tuesday then promoted Jimmy Adams, who was the Assistant Chief in Charge of Training.

Deye says he has specific goals to elevate Covington’s Department, with the first goal focused on recruiting. The Department is in the process of filling about a half dozen open positions, a process that has proven more challenging in today’s employment climate.

Last June, Deye started the department’s cadet program, which employs on a part-time basis four recent graduates of Covington high schools as a way to build “a firefighter pipeline.” During his tenure, he also directed two recruit classes.

Deye noted that the average age of Covington’s firefighters is now 38, much higher than it has been traditionally. One difficulty has been getting “the younger generation” to embrace the notion of fire service as being more than a job, he said.

“We want to get the new generation excited about the career and family life it can be and the brotherhood (and sisterhood) it can be,” he said.

A second goal is to broaden the use of modern technology, techniques, and equipment to not only put out fires and respond to medical emergencies but also to (specifically) improve health outcomes.

A previous example of that is paramedics’ use of a mechanical chest compression device as part of a transition toward a “Pit Crew” model of delivering cardiac care. Partly as a result, since 2020 EMS crews have seen great improvements in patient outcomes: the number of cardiac patients who experience ROSC (return of spontaneous circulation) has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent, and the number of patients who were able to return home neurologically intact has doubled from 10 percent to 18-20 percent.

“I want to see things like that continue,” Deye said. “I would like Covington to be a bigger leader in the region to do new, scientifically backed things to increase citizen survivability, because that’s what’s important.”

Deye said he’s big on data-driven decisions and also has benefited from a wide range of roles in Covington.

He was hired in 2004 as one of 16 paramedics in the City’s initial class, but “I’ve come up through all the ranks – I know what it’s like to walk in every one of their shoes.”

City Manager Ken Smith praised Deye.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Corey as deputy chief, and I have full confidence in his leadership as chief,” Smith said. “I look forward to seeing the department evolve under him while continuing to provide the exemplary service that Covington is known for.”

About the new chief

Deye came to Covington in July 2004 and was promoted to engineer in 2010, lieutenant in 2012, captain in 2017, battalion chief in September 2021, assistant chief in charge of training in December 2021, and deputy chief effective Jan. 1, 2024. He has an associate of applied science degree in fire service technology from Cincinnati State Technical & Community College.

Deye helped create the Department’s EMS Peer Review program and the Covington Police Department’s SWAT Paramedic Program, improve testing of fire hydrants, and has been working to improve the Department’s record management software, officer training, swift water response, and active fire training facility.

Deputy Chief Adams

Adams joined the Covington Fire Department in April 2008 after many years in the fire service throughout Northern Kentucky. He was promoted to engineer in 2011, lieutenant in June 2017 and assistant chief in charge of training effective Jan. 1, 2024.

Adams has taught training classes to all shifts in Covington on a variety of skills, protocols, and equipment uses.

“Through the years, Jimmy has taught five recruit classes,” Deye told the Commission. “He has been an integral part of training our new employees to be Covington firefighters.”

“It’s a very traditional department we have here, there’s a lot of honor,” Adams told the Commission. “I hope I can live up to the expectations that the members have for us. … This is where we need to be at this point. We’re getting ready to hire a new class and train some people, and that’s what I’m good at. We’re going to grow the organization, and together we’ll succeed.”