Hogsten Family Gives 100 Years of Firefighting Service



Pamela Hall

The Ashland Beacon


   When Ryan Hogsten, an Ashland native, became a firefighter, he was carrying on a family tradition. His grandfather, James “Jim” Hogsten, had also served as a firefighter for the Ashland Fire Department, as had Jim’s father, Leonard. 

   Leonard joined the Ashland Fire Department in 1922 and served for 36 years. Jim began in 1950 and served for 42 years. After he had risen to the rank of Captain, he actually outranked his father, who was the driver on Jim’s truck. “It isn’t often that a son outranks a father,” Ryan commented with a laugh. 

   Jim eventually became the Fire Chief and served Ashland for 20 years in that capacity until his retirement in late 1992. 

   Although none of Jim’s three sons followed in his vocational footsteps as a firefighter, the Hogsten family, as a whole, is no stranger to public service positions. Several other Hogsten family members have served in other public service positions, such as police officers and in the prison system, as well as firefighters. Jim’s grandson, Ryan, showed an interest in firefighting, although he wasn’t certain that was what he wanted to do.

   Ryan graduated from Paul Blazer High School and went to the University of Kentucky in 1991. “I went with the intention of becoming anything but a firefighter,” he said. “That was the last thing I wanted,” even though he had been interested in firefighting for a while, due to his grandfather Jim’s influence. 

   After Ryan tried unsuccessfully to decide on a major, Jim mentioned to his grandson that Eastern Kentucky University offered a Fire Engineering program. Ryan transferred there in 1993 and completed the program, earning his degree in Fire Engineering. 

   Ryan began his firefighting career as a volunteer at the North Jessamine Volunteer Fire Department in 1993. He joined the Lexington Fire Department in 1995. Of course, Jim had some advice for his grandson to help him be successful. 

   “My grandfather’s words to me,” Ryan related, “when I first got on at Lexington was, ‘go find the men that are working and do what they do.  Don’t be the one who just gets by, be associated with the hard workers! It will take you down the right path.’ I have been blessed to help people all across the United States because of the influence my family has been in my career,” Ryan continued.  “Not only my family who are in the fire service but my parents, wife and kids.  They have sacrificed so much so I could succeed and be a firefighter.”

   Jim’s sound advice paid off. Ryan now serves at the rank of Captain, a position he’s held for 12 years. He’s made many memories during his tenure. 

   “I have been on some of the largest incidents that have happened in Lexington’s history,” Ryan said, naming several, such as plane crashes and a stockyard fire that was the largest fire in the history of the Lexington Fire Department. “Also several floods, hurricanes, and structural collapses with my work with OHIO Task Force 1 across the United States,” he stated. His most memorable moments are not being present at such events, however. 


   “Being at the firehouse kitchen table after those types of incidents,” he explained, “being able to talk with brother and sister firefighters and relive the good and the bad is without a doubt the most memorable! During my career I’ve gotten to live and work with some of the best people that God has ever created.  People who are willing to risk everything to make a difference in others’ lives.  Just being able to associate with people of this caliber is special and it is an honor to work beside them.”

   In 2015, when Ryan reached 20 years of service in Lexington, he was excited to tell his grandfather that he was eligible for retirement. “I’ll never forget his joking words to me,” Ryan recalled. “He said, ‘Son, you’re not even halfway yet!’ He asked me later in that conversation to complete the 100 years for the family service.” Jim passed away later that year, never seeing the fulfillment of that promise, but the fact that he would be proud is a given.

   “Dad was so excited about making the 100 years of family service,” said Lee Hogsten, Ryan’s father. “Rae (Ryan’s mother) and I are so proud that Ryan kept his promise and achieved that mark for our family. I know Dad would be proud!”

   After experiencing a major injury in 2016, Ryan considered retiring, but decided against it. “I’ve had several opportunities to retire,” he said, “but I made a promise to my grandfather that I would get our family to 100 years of firefighting service. Now I have fulfilled that promise to him. I wish he was alive to see it.”

   Ryan has now completed more than 27 years of service. His goal before retiring is to reach 30 years.

    “Firefighting has always been more than a career to me,” Ryan said. “It’s a family thing and it’s my thing. It’s hard for me to think about not doing this job. I know one day it will come to an end for me. I just hope I did my part to make it better for the next generation, as my grandfathers did for me.”

   Thank you, Hogsten family, for your service, and to all the first responders and service men and women who serve our great country!