On fire for God: Local firefighters advance to world championship

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Donny Leonard begins his trek up six flights of stairs. Photo by Cassandra Favre

Donny Leonard begins his trek up six flights of stairs.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” –– Jeremiah 20:9 NIV.

In Pearl River County, there are five firefighters who not only promote true brotherhood and fitness, but also spread the word of God while participating in the Scott Firefighter Combat Challenge.
The group is named “On Fire for God” and was started in 2011 by McNeill Volunteer Fire Department Chief Donny Leonard.
The group travels across the country participating in Firefighter Combat Challenges.
“These challenges promote firefighter fitness and supports true brotherhood and camaraderie of the fire department,” Leonard said.
Members of team On Fire for God include Leonard, Pine Grove Fire Chief Steve Seal, Slidell Fire Department firefighter and Southeast Volunteer firefighter Tony Scharenbroch, Picayune Fire Department Captain and Pine Grove Assistant Chief Ronnie Reynolds and Pearl River County EOC Director and Fire Coordinator Danny Manley.
Group members also distribute complimentary Bibles at every event, Seal said.
“We make it a ministry,” Leonard said. “The gear we wear has scripture written on the arms and legs. Since we started, we have given out more than 1,500 Bibles.”
Last weekend in Brandon, the group placed first in the over 40 relay team category and was also awarded fastest volunteer team. Their winning time was one minute and 38 seconds.
During a challenge, the firefighters complete tactical firefighting duties in a timed setting. Participants don their gear, climb a tower consisting of six flights of stairs, hoist about 42 pounds of house and carry a life-sized dummy, which weighs about 170 pounds, Leonard said.
This October, the team will compete at the world championship in Montgomery, Alabama, an event they have qualified for since 2012, Seal said.
Scharenbach said participating in challenges keeps him motivated to exercise and make goals to be proud of.
Seal, who is 52, said being a part of the team keeps him physically fit.
“From my perspective, with 35-years in fire service, every year physical fitness and age are a compounded problem,” Seal said. “I want to work hard to perform my job effectively and stay on top of my game. I don’t want to let my firefighters down.”
Leonard hopes to encourage other firefighters to join their team.
“We want to be their role model,” Leonard said.
The neat thing about these competitions, Seal added, is that no matter whether you’re the best or worst, there’s no judgment.
“It’s a good representation of brotherhood and femalehood,” Leonard said.
The team relays on the support of sponsors to help offset travel costs to events. Seal said Mark Herring of Dub Herring Ford provided a van in the past.
For more information about the team and sponsorship, contact Leonard at 601-590-4632.

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