First in, last out

By Dwain Hebda

Ty Ledbetter got some early up-close training on the life of a firefighter by watching his father, Mark, who served the Conway department for almost four decades and retired as assistant chief. For as much as he appreciated what his father did, though, it didn’t initially inspire Ty to follow in his footsteps.

“I had a pretty good understanding of what the fire service was all about and I didn’t want anything to do with it initially,” he said with a laugh. “I went to school to be a lawyer, get into politics. I was really big into political science.”

“In Ty’s unwavering leadership, we witness a beacon of dedication and service. He epitomizes the essence of leadership by not only ensuring the safety of our community but also by actively engaging in outreach and education initiatives. Through his visionary guidance, he cultivates a culture of unity, resilience and empowerment—inspiring others to follow in his footsteps and make a meaningful difference.” — Mary Elizabeth Ansel, Trauma Coordinator/Registrar for Conway Regional Health System

While pursuing that course of study at Hendrix College, Ledbetter got a call from his father about an opening in an upcoming EMT class. He started attending classes “because I didn’t have anything else going at night, might as well,” only to discover his true calling.

“I realized through that class that I didn’t want to sit at a lawyer’s desk my entire life,” Ledbetter said. “I wanted to get out on the streets and get to help people that way.”

Graduating from the fire academy, he hired on with the Russellville Fire Department largely because his father was still with the Conway department and he wanted to start his career on his own merits. After three years in Russellville, he joined his hometown department on the heels of his father’s retirement.

The elder Ledbetter may have been gone, but he left some sage advice to his son that resonates to this day. “My dad told me, when I first started, ‘You’re gonna see a lot of things, things that people can’t imagine. But if you go in and every day train to be better, continue your education, and you go into that call and do your very best, you can sleep at night,’” he said.

“That’s something that has really stuck with me and has motivated me to better myself every day whenever I come to work and to better our guys and gals to improve the situations that we face.”

 Many people would be surprised to learn the breadth of emergency services provided by the Conway Fire Department, from air searches to underwater rescue. In his career, Ledbetter has been deployed in a number of roles, most recently coming off of the heavy rescue team to oversee the department’s 13 paramedics. He played a leading role in getting Safe Haven Baby Boxes installed in Conway, which give parents in crisis a safe way to surrender their infant to the fire department.

He’s also the medical manager for Arkansas Task Force One, a special unit deployed for disaster relief on which he’s served for 15 years. His tenure has taken him all over Arkansas and across the country, pitching in to help local authorities.

“It can be a structure collapse. It can be a grain bin rescue. I’ve gone to several tornado sites within the state,” he said. “I’ve gone to hurricanes throughout the southeast, anything that overwhelms local resources. I even did a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in New Jersey for a month. Wherever the federal government or state government decides that there’s an emergency, we’re going to come help you.”

Asked what has kept him at the ready for local emergencies as well as those around the United States, Ledbetter just grinned.

“For any firefighter that’s worth their salt, there’s never enough that they can do,” he said. “You see these disasters happen, whether it be three states away across the country or just a town over, everybody’s chomping at the bit to go help.

“Whenever I wake up in the morning and come to work, I never know what I’m going to get, but I know that I’m going to have the ability to have a positive impact on the city and community that has had a positive impact on me. The next call may be one of my relatives, somebody that I grew up with. I’m going to go out and I’m going to have the opportunity to make their day better and possibly save their life.”

Dwain Hebda
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