Ben Peel of the GFD visits with Jonnie Jacobs wife Katie and their three children Isabella, Sadie and Hunter during the Kentucky Brotherhood Ride. The family held up signs of support as the 130-mile trek passed through Georgetown on Sept. 26.

The Kentucky Brotherhood bike ride was especially poignant for Georgetown Fire Department’s Ben Peel this year.

The 130-mile trek across Kentucky is held annually to honor firefighters and other first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty. 

The ride is usually held over three or four days but was limited to one day this year.

Peel dedicated his ride to Battalion Chief Johnnie Jacobs,  who passed away this past January. Jacobs was a 24-year veteran firefighter before retiring in August 2018 due to ongoing health issues stemming from Desquamative Interstitial Pneumonia. Jacobs was Battalion Chief on second shift when Peel first started. 

It was determined that Jacobs was diagnosed with Desquamative Interstitial Pneumonia from the years of smoke inhalation and chemicals from his time as a first responder. 

Jacobs underwent a double lung transplant in late 2018, but eventually passed away due to illness in January of this year, 14 months after his transplant. 

Because of the Desquamative Interstitial Pneumonia that Jacobs was diagnosed with from his years of service, Peel says that the state ruled Jacobs’ passing a line of duty death. 

The Kentucky Brotherhood Ride stopped in Georgetown and visited with Jacobs family before completing its journey.

Originating in Florida, Kentucky adapted their own version, with firemen, EMS, and police officers from all over the state participating in the ride to honor their fallen brothers and sisters. 

Lexington, Louisville, Danville and Campbellsville had participants. 

The ride started in Brandenburg, in Meade County, and finished in Lexington for a total of over 130 miles. 

The trek was not about the people participating, but for the fallen first responders who have lost their lives, Peel said.

“First responder families would come and meet us out there and they would say thanks,” said Peel. “We didn’t want to take any credit from those people, we were just doing it so people would be like ‘Hey, what are these guys riding for?’”

He is a little sore from the ride, but it was all worth it in the end, he said. 

“We were just wanting to bring awareness to people who have passed away (in the line of duty),” Peel said.


Ian Teasley can be reached at

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