Sweigart Hangs Up Helmet After 25 Years

Capt. Wayne Sweigart (left) shakes hands with Chief Doug Ayers (right) while the chief talks about Sweigart’s dedication to the fire department and City of St. Marys.
Staff Writer

With the wail of a fire engine’s siren and a honk of an ambulance’s air horn, members of the St. Marys Fire Department wished one of their own a happy retirement.

Capt. Wayne Sweigart will officially retire from the St. Marys Fire Department, effective Monday but his fellow firefighters wanted to make sure they gave him a proper send off for his 25 years of full-time service to the department. The captain will be headed to the private sector of the fire service, where he hopes to continue his 36-year career as a fire investigator with Fire Explosion Consultants.

Before starting his career, tragedy struck his family. Sweigart new he needed to do something more.

“My sister had a natural gas explosion at her house and when they pulled my nephew out of that house, he was dead,” Sweigart said. “He took his first [new] breath at Greenville and [state Route] 66. The community had given me something back and at that point, I wanted to give something back to the community and so here we are, 25 years later and it’s been a great ride.”

In 1983 — one year after he graduated high school — Sweigart joined the city’s auxiliary fire department where he served for 11 years. He then went to St. Marys Township Fire Department where he worked for about seven months before a full-time opening was available for the city. 

Since being hired with the city, the 54-year-old Sweigart has made an impact on the residents, his coworkers and his supervisors. 

While the general theme of the retirement luncheon the city held for Sweigart Thursday afternoon was one of thanks, the veteran firefighter was not able to escape a gentle ribbing from his chief. Sweigart then explained that his career as a captain began with a barn fire on his first day so it only made sense that he would end his career with a fire — albeit a small one.

“This morning, because Wayne needs to go out on a bang, we have a fire at Continental and he gets to go out on the truck one more time,” Chief Doug Ayers said.

And the thrill of hearing the phone ring, getting the call and pulling out of 222 Indiana Avenue with lights and sirens blaring is what Sweigart said he will miss the most. Be it a squad run, a fire call, car accident or other emergency, the job of a firefighter is to rush toward someone else’s worst day and try to make it better.