Sidney firefighter graduates from the Ohio Fire Academy


SIDNEY — Sidney Firefighter Ricardo Q. Lenhart was a member of the largest class to ever graduated from the Ohio Fire Academy. Graduation ceremonies were held Friday afternoon, April 14, 2023, at the Ohio Fire Academy in Columbus.

In addition to members of his family, the ceremonies were attended by members of the Sidney Fire Department’s command staff. They included Chief Chad Hollinger, Assistant Chief Jason Truesdale, and Training Officer Lt. Jeff Simon. At-large Councilmember and Sidney City Councilman Mike Barhorst also attended the ceremonies.

Addressing the standing room only audience were Ohio Fire Academy Superintendent Jack Smith, State Fire Marshal Kevin Reardon, retired Columbus Fire Department Capt. Greg Lash, Portage County Sheriff Bruce Zuchowski, and Ohio Fire Academy Lead Instructor Brent Gates. The class remarks were offered by Keaton Griffeth, a graduating student from the Mansfield Fire Department.

“You are the future of the fire service,” Reardon told the graduates and their guests during his remarks. “Not only was this our largest class to ever graduate from the Academy, but it is the first class in a long time that did not lose a single student during the ten-week program.”

“You have chosen a noble career,” Reardon continued. “It’s not for everyone. You’ll see humanity at its best moments and at its worst moments. You’ll very quickly learn that bad things happen to good people.”

“For us old folks who have been in the fire service for a long time, we worry about things like tradition, standards, and the future,” Reardon said. “This class has demonstrated that we don’t have to worry. You have come together and worked cohesively much sooner than previous classes. You’ve demonstrated integrity, trust and character – all keys to successful careers.”

Retired Columbus Fire Captain Lash related a number of humorous stories from his long career. He then became serious.

“This is not a job where you can say you’re sorry when you’ve miss delivered a package to the wrong address,” Lash told the graduates. “It’s not a job where you can say sorry when you’ve handed someone the wrong meal in a restaurant.”

“Sorry doesn’t cut it in our profession. When we don’t get it right, someone gets hurt or killed. When you don’t get it right, it can be the worst day of your life or the last day of your life,” Lash stated. “We have to get it right every time!”

Lash then told the graduates that they were the highest performing class in his memory. “I have been impressed with your commitment to excellence,” Lash stated.

Lead Instructor Brent Gates noted that the class had set a number of firsts. “It’s absolutely the first class where I was presented a bouquet of flowers,” Gates noted before thanking firefighter graduate Courtney Honcell from the Lima Fire Department.

“It’s easy to be a good firefighter for five to six years,” Gates told the graduates. “It’s hard to do it for 25, 30, or 35 years. I want to encourage you to become an arsonist, to set yourself on fire with passion for your community. Passion is the fire that carries you forward. It’s your passion that allows you to throw your heart over the fence into danger and once your heart goes, your body will follow.”

Once the graduates received their certificates of completion and Newark, Ohio Firefighter Graduate Isaac Stedman offered the benediction, the graduates joined their families, friends and colleagues for a reception, closing one of the initial chapters in their lives as firefighters.

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