Devastating news came for Ralston in January when the city learned of the death of Ralston Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kyle Ienn.
Ienn, 40, had committed suicide Jan. 31 by hanging himself from a bridge near 69th and Pine streets in Omaha.
In 10 years as chief and 22 years total with the department, Ienn had proven a dynamic and visionary leader, securing grants for recruitment and retention and growing the RVFD to its largest membership in history — counting 56 members in 2011.
He was also a tireless advocate for fireworks safety and also took a lead in preventing smoking-related fires.
“And he was a volunteer,” said Mike Bolte, a retired RVFD member who served wth Ienn as part of the RVFD Honor Guard. “That’s what was most special about Kyle. He did all this and it wasn’t even something he was paid to do.”
Ienn’s life of service in Ralston began in his teen years, when he worked for the city’s public works department.
Upon his graduation from Ralston High School in 1989, he joined the RVFD and steadily climbed the ranks.
The Feb. 4 funeral would have been Ienn’s 41st birthday. A blizzard descended on the metro area, but 1,200 people still managed to attend services at Ralston High, including firefighters from as far afield as Chicago and Milwaukee.
In the wake of Ienn’s death, RVFD Assistant Chief Joe Eischeid, with more than 30 years on the department, assumed leadership of the RVFD.
The new chief said his predecessor and friend was the best of the best.
“He’s been the best chief I’ve ever served under,” Eischeid said.
“He’s done more for the department than any other chief we’ve ever had.”