At that time, McKenna said he had just endured his third liver infection after the disease spread to his liver and lungs. His doctor had only given him months to live, but he managed to keep fighting for nearly a year.
McKenna, a firefighter for 21 years, joined the Salem Fire Department in January 2003. He rose through the ranks to become a paramedic, lieutenant, station officer, and captain and shift commander.
McKenna also served as the rescue program coordinator at the New Hampshire Fire Academy and as a member of an Urban Search and Rescue Task Force in Massachusetts, Breen said.
He was recognized for his more than 15 years of service with the Fire Academy by the New Hampshire Fire Standards & Training and EMS Commission in November.
As a shift commander with the Salem department, Breen said, McKenna was a solid leader who easily earned the respect and friendship of others.
Deputy Chief Paul Leischner agreed. He said McKenna was an excellent instructor, who could handle practically any task in the department with perfection.
“I just thought he was very sharp,” Leischner said. “He had a wide range of expertise ... He was very capable.”
While McKenna was certainly a taskmaster, it was also a pleasure to work at his side for the last decade, said Leischner, a 30-year veteran.
“It was easy to work with him,” he said.
McKenna was also remembered yesterday by Salem town officials, including longtime Selectmen Everett McBride Jr. — the board’s chairman for the past year.
“What happened to Steve is tragic,” McBride said. “He was a young man who had a family. It’s a sad, sad situation.”
McKenna was also mourned by his comrades across the state, including the Fire Instructors & Officers Association of New Hampshire. He was a lifetime member of the organization and a recipient of its John T. Ayers Fire Instructor of the Year Award.
“Our thoughts are with Steve’s friends, family, and all he touched in the fire service,” the organization said in a statement.