Kyle Ienn was remembered Tuesday by friends and colleagues as a dedicated firefighter, a national expert on fireworks safety and the fire chief who brought growth and national recognition to the Ralston Volunteer Fire Department.
"Kyle sees the big picture, way beyond Ralston," said Mike Bolte, a retired firefighter who served with Ienn. "From his work with the National Fallen Firefighters to what he's done with fireworks safety, he saw things in a way bigger world.
"And he was a volunteer. That's what was most special about Kyle. He did all this and it wasn't even something he was paid to do."
Omaha police discovered the body of Ienn, 40, about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday, hanging from a bridge near 69th and Pine Streets. Police were investigating the death as a suicide.
"It's a really sad day for our community," Ralston Mayor Don Groesser said. "We've lost a dear friend, we've lost our fire chief. The city is just suffering a tremendous loss right now."
Ienn also managed the Ace Hardware Store near 55th and Center Streets in Omaha.
He lived in Papillion with his wife, Christine, administrative assistant for the Ralston department. He was the father of three children.
Dozens of Ralston firefighters gathered at the couple's home as word spread of Ienn's death.
Under his leadership, the ranks of Ralston volunteer firefighters grew to an all-time high, 56 at the end of 2011.
After a spate of smoking-related fires in Ralston, La Vista and Omaha, Ienn became a spokesman for RentSmokeFree.org. He was featured in a televised public service announcement asking landlords and renters to demand smoke-free housing in the Omaha area.
He also was recognized nationally as an advocate and expert on fireworks safety.
Ienn was instrumental in promoting his department's honor guard, which for several years has participated in National Fallen Firefighters ceremonies in Maryland.
Ienn worked for the Ralston Parks Department in the 1980s before signing on with the Fire Department shortly after his 1989 graduation from Ralston High School.
"Kyle has taken this department to a completely different level," said Tom Negley, a former fire chief. "I was thrilled when Kyle said he'd take the job as chief, because I knew he'd do an excellent job."
Besides his wife and children, Ienn is survived by his mother, Dianne Ienn of Ralston, and two brothers. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Negley said Assistant Fire Chief Joe Eischeid will take over administrative and day-to-day operations of the department.
"It's going to be tough," Eischeid said. "We train so that we know what to expect in a situation, but a lot of guys in there just don't know what to say about this."
World-Herald staff writer Maggie O'Brien contributed to this report.