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Zoneton Fire’s Santa Truck honors chief battling cancer and COVID-19

Published: Dec. 4, 2020 at 12:13 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Zoneton Fire Protection District is known this time of year for their Santa Fire Truck. It’s a 23 year tradition, and even with COVID-19, there are finding a way to make it happen. Rather than getting out of the truck to take pictures with families, they will only drive by with Santa and his helpers.

Thursday night, the Santa Fire Truck made its 2020 debut.

For about two weeks, Captain Steven Corbin and other Zoneton firefighters hung 91,000 lights on the firetruck for Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus and their elves to ride through the area, putting smiles on families faces. They also have more than 8,000 candy canes to toss down to families over the next several weeks.

While a lot of things had to change because of COVID-19, there’s another major missing piece this year: Zoneton’s fire chief.

“This is his favorite time of the year, so it’s been tough,” Corbin said.

Chief Rob Orkies is in the hospital fighting COVID-19 and Stage 4 Cancer in his Neck and lymph nodes.

Right now, according to his family, he’s on a ventilator, fighting for his life.

“There have been some setbacks the past couple of days with chest x-rays and different things,” Corbin said. “But right now it’s in God’s hands. He needs the prayers. The family needs the prayers.”

Corbin described Orkies as not only his chief and boss, but also like a father to him. He said the last several weeks without him and not being able to talk to him has been hard.

“Everything from early planning stages to our first night, he’s just as involved, so it’s been difficult this year,” Corbin said. “We’ve had to pick up that extra slack. Normally he’d be here.”

Orkies may not physically with the crew on the truck this year for the Santa runs, but he’s there in spirit. His badge number and the community’s slogan ’8101 Strong’ sits on the front of the fire truck, surrounded by lights for everyone to see, leading the way. The truck is decorated with red and white lights, which are the colors of support for his cancer diagnosis.

“Usually he’s on the top of the truck with us,” Corbin said. “So we wanted him to be here to lead us on our Santa detail that we’re doing tonight.”

The family has asked everyone to stop and pray every day at 7 p.m.

Before riding out Thursday night to reveal the Santa Truck, the family joined the Zoneton firefighters and their families to pause and pray for Orkies and his healing.

“Hopefully get him back soon,” Corbin said. “We need him, the community needs him, we love him and miss him. It’s tough this year for everybody.”

Corbin said the community’s support during this time has been very obvious and they are grateful for it.

The Santa runs continue through Dec. 19. For a list of when and where the Santa truck will stop by, click here.

For continued updates on Chief Orkies and his battle with cancer and COVID-19, click here.

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.