Montgomery Avenue in Oceanside is renamed for FDNY firefighter and 9/11 responder...

Montgomery Avenue in Oceanside is renamed for FDNY firefighter and 9/11 responder Ronald Kirchner on Saturday. Credit: Joseph Sperber/Joseph Sperber

FDNY firefighter Ronald Kirchner had just completed his shift at a Queens firehouse on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and arrived at his second job when he first saw the images of the Twin Towers shrouded in smoke.

He called his wife, Dawn, and went down to lower Manhattan that same day. Over the next six months, Kirchner — who died in August 2022 at age 60 from 9/11-related illness — logged 600 hours at Ground Zero.

On Saturday in Oceanside, standing beneath an American flag hoisted by Long Beach and Oceanside fire trucks, Kirchner’s family — Dawn, 60, and their children, Luke, 27, and Ava, 23 — pulled a commemorative sleeve from the street sign on Montgomery Avenue, near where they live, to unveil a new name: “Firefighter Ronald J. Kirchner Ave.”

Dawn Kirchner, left, wife of firefighter Ronald Kirchner, with children Ava...

Dawn Kirchner, left, wife of firefighter Ronald Kirchner, with children Ava and Luke at the ceremony. Credit: Joseph Sperber

Around 200 attendees, including Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, Hempstead Town Clerk Kate Murray, FDNY officials and firefighters from surrounding departments, attended the street dedication.

“Events like this help us to remember how a person lived, not just how they died,” Murray said.

Before her husband’s name was unveiled on the street sign, Dawn recalled the unwavering love Kirchner held for his family and how his “presence filled us with security.” 

“Ronnie did everything at 110%,” Dawn said. "Whether it was setting up a tent for camping, getting the backyard ready for a party, working on a construction job or putting out a fire, Ronnie was all in.”

Kirchner started in the FDNY on Nov. 12, 1989. He first joined Ladder 135 in Glendale, Queens, and spent six years there before working at Engine 53 in Harlem and later finding his home at Ladder 154 in Jackson Heights, where he spent the majority of his career.

He was diagnosed with dementia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and retired from the department in 2009.

“He loved intensely,” Dawn said. “Luke and Ava and I were blessed enough to be the recipients of that.”

Luke is currently a probationary firefighter, following in his father’s footsteps in the department.

Captain Christopher Oleaga, of FDNY Engine 312, met Kirchner in 2000 and worked with him for the next nine years. He said Kirchner was a skilled firefighter and a hard worker, but also a leader who opposed divisions in the firehouse.

“He did everything he could to pull us all together,” Oleaga said. / 

Dawn Kirchner, wife of firefighter Ronald Kirchner, speaks at the...

Dawn Kirchner, wife of firefighter Ronald Kirchner, speaks at the ceremony. Credit: Joseph Sperber

FDNY Emerald Society Pipes and Drums Capt. Tom Cunneen performed at the ceremony, which was held at the corner of Montgomery and Lawrence Avenues. 

Steve Ferring, a retired FDNY firefighter who worked his entire career in Ladder 154, spent years working with Kirchner.

He recalled a run the firefighters made one snowy January for a gas leak, which turned out to be a run-of-the-mill call at the end of Kirchner’s shift. Ferring saw Kirchner talking to an older neighbor and assumed he was explaining the cause of their visit, but when they returned to the firehouse, Kirchner was seen rummaging through a closet for a shovel.

“I walk in there and said, ‘What are you doing?' ” Ferring said. “He goes: ‘I told that woman, "I’m going to come back and help you." ' ”

Kirchner went back and shoveled her driveway and path.

“They say the true mark of a person’s character is what they do when no one is watching,” Ferring said. “He didn’t say anything to anybody, he was just going to grab a shovel and he was going to go help this woman because she needed it.”

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