Top firefighter loves community involvement
Monday night Owatonna firefighters gathered in their hall as sleet rained down outside to honor one of their own. Ryan Seykora was named Firefighter of the Year by the Exchange Club of Owatonna, an award that has been given out since 2003.
Seykora has been with the Owatonna Fire Department for seven years, and for two and a half of those years he has served full-time protecting his hometown. “It’s a town that’s given me a lot,” he said of Owatonna. “I grew up here and I have a lot of relationships here, and I’ve met a lot of great people here.”
“My fellow firefighters challenge me, they teach me, we work together, and we’ve built good relationships,” he said while recognizing the other members of the department. “The fact that they drive me to improve myself and to be better at my job is what I appreciate the most.”
There’s more to being a firefighter than serving public safety. They also have to be involved in the community, something Seykora relishes. “I like the community side and I like being involved in the community. I really enjoy the teaching aspect and trying to develop the next generation of firefighters and keep the proud legacy that we have here at the fire department and pass that on,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we’ve narrowed down our community events due to COVID. What we’re concerned about is if COVID comes through the fire department and one of us gets sick and we have to quarantine and then we can’t respond, we can’t provide our mission to the community and the surrounding areas,” he said while explaining how the current situation has altered the department’s practices.
When asked how he felt about being honored Seykora was humble. “It’s very difficult to be singled out individually, especially in a job where you have fellow firefighters,” he said. “It’s humbling, but it’s a good thing that the Exchange has honored firefighters for all these years.”
“It makes me look back at my seven years and understand that there’s a lot of honorary firefighters in my life. They’re the people who allow me to do this job,” he said. “My family who makes sure the homelife is taken care of and my kids are taken care of.”
According to Seykora, he was never one of those kids who dreamed of growing up to be a firefighter. “It was never one of those jobs that I said I wanted to be when I was 5 years old. I wanted to be a pro athlete back then,” he said with a smile.
“It was always there in my head that I wanted to do that job, but I just never had the opportunity,” he explained. “Then I guess the timing was correct and I had the opportunity to get paid on call and then another good opportunity to apply for a full-time position. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to work here and I love being involved and giving back.”
Seykora was informally recognized by the Exchange Club of Owatonna and his fellow firefighters during the department’s monthly training Monday night, with an official ceremony held Thursday morning.
“This is not just about one firefighter. It’s a way to say thank you to all firefighters,” OFD Chief Mike Johnson said as the department gathered around its garage. “But in appreciation for outstanding service we recognize one firefighter each year.”
Each year the firefighters cast votes for the award, making the recognition even more special. “This year some of the comments I got about Ryan– and I agree with these– is that he excels at training firefighters, and he’s very passionate about the fire service and very passionate about training,” Johnson said.
Upon receiving the award before his fellow firefighters, Seykora thanked the Exchange Club and all those who help him at his job. “Thanks for always challenging me, for teaching me, and for always working with me on any calls we go on and any training that we do,” he said.