Holt Fire chief celebrates 30 years

HOLT, Fla., Sept. 13, 2021—A crowd of friends, family and area firefighters gathered Sunday to mark a milestone as Chief Scott Chestnut celebrated 30 years as part of Holt Fire this month.

He was recognized at a surprise gathering held in his honor at the Holt fire station yesterday afternoon.

“The fire district in Holt is something we as a community and we as commissioners can be proud of,” said Holt Fire District commissioner Jim Connors. “We have 14 trained firefighters who are Level I and Level II. And it is directly attributed to the efforts by Chief Scott Chestnut.”

During the ceremony, the chief’s mother, Sheryl Chestnut, presented him with a traditional white leather chief’s helmet with a brass eagle on top that holds the shield. Unlike most chiefs’ helmets, the shield attached to Chestnut’s helmet is black.

Chief Chestnut’s new white helmet with black patch. (photo by Shelly Chestnut)

“Scotty likes the idea of a black shield on a white helmet because he started out wearing the black helmet,” said Scott’s wife, Shelly Chestnut. “It reminds him where he came from as a firefighter.”

The leather helmet is a symbol of those firefighters who first wore them during 1830s organized civilian firefighting. Firefighters who wear leather helmets are affectionally known as leatherheads.

The chief began his fire career as a teenager in September 1991 and has been a part of Holt Fire the entire time, with a couple of breaks here and there.

According to Chestnut, when he first joined the Holt Volunteer Fire Department at age 19, being a firefighter “just fit.” He enjoyed being part of a team and being able to help the community where he lived.

About five years later, now-Captain Chestnut was asked by Holt Fire Chief David Davis to be the assistant fire chief. When Davis retired shortly thereafter, the board of commissioners offered Chestnut the position of fire chief. 

He didn’t accept right away. He wasn’t sure if he was the right man for the job.

After thinking about it and consulting with his dad and his firefighter mentors, he took the position—with a twist. At the recommendation of Baker Fire Chief Jackie Paul, and with the concurrence of the Holt Fire board of commissioners, Paul was appointed an interim chief for a year but allowed Chestnut to run the station to help Chestnut build confidence and grow into the position as chief.

A year later, he was promoted to chief.

Chestnut remained chief for a number of years, until problems between him and the then-board of commissioners reached an impasse around 2001, so he stepped down.

The entire board eventually resigned and a new commissioner chairman was appointed by the governor of Florida.

With a new board in place, Chestnut was again asked to resume his position as chief.

In 2006, Chestnut took another brief hiatus when his two daughters were playing school and travel basketball, family activities that required his attention. Realizing he could not give both his family and the fire mission the devotion they required, he stepped down. However, after a year away, and changes to basketball schedules, the call to serve brought him back to Holt Fire.

Once again, shortly after he returned, the current chief resigned and Chestnut was again asked to be the chief. 

Because he wanted to run fire calls as a member of the response team rather than be in charge, he turned the board down and recommended that they appoint the former training assistant chief, Dave Brown, to take the position. With the appointment of Brown as chief, Chestnut was asked to fill the now-vacant deputy position, which he did.

Not long after that, Brown retired and Chestnut was again asked to be chief. He agreed, and has held the position since then.

A lot has happened during the past 30 years since Chestnut has been a member of Holt Fire.

“It’s been a journey,” he said. “I’ve been very blessed to have made it this far. I’m truly honored to be a part of this effort.”

Stephanie Holcombe

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