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Fire chief’s death leaves void

Fire chief’s death leaves void

File photo Reno Fire Chief Dan Ritchey is shown at a house that burned in August 2019. Ritchey, 60, died Monday from complications of COVID-19.

RENO — Longtime Reno Volunteer Fire Department chief, small business owner, Marietta Township trustee — Dan Ritchey wore many hats in the community.

“He was the chief, but he was also a husband and dad and friend and grandpa,” his daughter, Lori Ludwig, said Thursday. “He was the closest thing to a real-life superhero.”

Ritchey, owner of Ritchey’s Detail Shop and a fixture at the fire department even before he officially joined at age 15, passed away Monday at age 60 at The Ohio State University Medical Center from complications of COVID-19, the department announced on its Facebook page.

“His father was a member as well, back in the old days, and Dan just always came with him,” said Reno Fire Capt. Ted Patterson, who joined a year or so before Ritchey. “He was a big part of the department. There’s going to be a big hole here to fill.”

Although Ritchey was the chief, Patterson said he would often defer to the first officer on the scene or someone who was more familiar with a particular area or issue.

“We operated as a team. And it really didn’t matter what your rank was,” he said.

Deputy Chief John Bradford joined the department at 16 and said Ritchey tried to teach him “a bit of everything” while also keeping things simple.

“He was very instrumental and took me under his wing,” Bradford said.

Ritchey wasn’t just a mentor for members of his own department.

Lowell-Adams Volunteer Fire Chief Josh Harris said he got to know Ritchey more than two decades ago and sought advice from him when he became chief and as an Adams Township trustee.

“He’s probably one of the most respected chiefs,” Harris said. “There’s not too many guys like Dan Ritchey.”

Harris said Ritchey treated every run he went on like the people involved were “his own family.”

Ludwig said her father could be strict because he’d seen the outcomes of accidents and mistakes on scenes. He also imparted lessons about service.

“He taught us really early in life that you had to give back and work really hard to help the people around you, no matter what the outcome was,” she said.

Fire Capt. Mike Hill said Ritchey “wasn’t just a leader, he was a friend.”

Fellow firefighters said Ritchey was a significant part of major projects for the department, including the establishment of one of the first paid, 24-7 EMS services in the county to make sure medical coverage was always available and the recent first phase of construction on a new building.

“Dan was a passionate man for what he loved,” said Capt. Jerry Patterson, Ted’s son. “He loved his family, his fire department, his grandchildren and his community.”

Fellow Marietta Township Trustee Jerry Stevens said Ritchey knew the community and what was happening in it well.

“I just can’t believe he’s gone. It just happened that quick,” Stevens said. “We’ll miss him, I know that.”

Ritchey’s funeral is Saturday at Souls Harbor Baptist Church in Marietta.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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