Chief Ron Kanterman Honored to Have Helped Families of Nation's Fallen Firefighters

May 31, 2024
After 25 years in the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend command center, Chief Ron Kanterman stepped aside.

EMMITSBURG, MD -- While the thousands who turned out to offer a final salute to fallen firefighters have returned to their communities across the country, work behind the scenes continues.

The cadre of volunteers will review every aspect of the 43rd annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend. 

They share a common theme whether they're from a small volunteer company or a large metropolitan department to make a memorable experience for the families of the fallen.

"When I got here the first time to help, it hit me. It was so powerful. I told my wife when I got home, I'm going back. I want to be part of it," said Chief Ron Kanterman, who has spent the past 25 years in the command post including the last several as the incident commander.

This past memorial weekend was his last at the helm.

"It was time to step aside and let the next generation lead," he said.

After years of working in a number of capacities, Kanterman said he was asked by the late Chief John McGrath, the incident commander, to join him for dinner.

"I thought I must have done something wrong," he said.

But that wasn't the case at all. 

"He asked me to be his deputy, his number two. I was honored. John and I always worked well together."

The two led the team together for several years before McGrath relinquished command.

Kanterman was quick to point out that the leaders and people involved with the various branches or sectors are what makes the operation successful.

Throughout the year, specific leaders will keep track of the family escorts, honor guards, logistics, transportation, production and security. The information will be passed along so others are in the loop.

The recent memorial weekend was the largest attended in Emmitsburg.

In keeping with the incident command system, the chiefs established SOPs. One, a contingency plan in case of inclement weather, was implemented again earlier this month.

All activities were moved to Mount St. Mary's University. In a matter of hours, things were broken down on the National Fire Academy campus and moved down to the arena.

Kanterman said he's proud of the work that's being done to make sure everything is ready.  

"It's emotional. It doesn't matter how many times you've been here. The enormity hits you."

He's worked his way up through the ranks during his 48 years in the fire service, led departments, taught firefighters and recently returned to the department where it first started the FDNY where he's an executive inspector. 

But, his most rewarding accomplishment has been the opportunity to help honor fallen firefighters by showing their loved ones that their sacrifices will not be forgotten and their memories will be kept alive.

The chief, who enjoys music, reading and woodworking, said he was pleased to hear that many families have reached out to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to express their appreciation.

"Some say it's about closure. If that happens, then I consider it a home run," he said.

Establishing a command system similar to one used at an incident has worked well, said Ron Siarnicki, retired NFFF executive director. 

"Ron was a good leader. He didn't micromanage," Siarnicki said adding that the management style encourages people to stay and be involved.

Kanterman said of his tenure: "It's been a true honor to serve."

About the Author

Susan Nicol | News Editor

Susan Nicol is the news editor for She is a life member and active with the Brunswick Volunteer Ambulance & Rescue Company, Oxford Fire Company and Brunswick Vol. Fire Co. Susie has been an EMT in Maryland since 1976. Susie is vice-president of the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum. She is on the executive committee of Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. She also is part of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) Region II EMS Council. Susie is a board member of the American Trauma Society, Maryland Division. Prior to joining the Firehouse team, she was a staff writer for The Frederick News-Post, covering fire, law enforcement, court and legislative issues. 

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