Fire chief adjusts to town
Eudora Fire Chief Randy Ates credited his brother ---- a paid public safety officer in central Arkansas ---- for pointing him toward his eventual career.
"I watched him, and the fun he seemed to be having with that lured me to it," Ates said.
Although he tried to learn as much as he could about his brother's job, it wasn't until seeing him in action against a structure fire, that Ates' fascination with rescue turned to determination to try it himself.
"He was dispatched to a structure fire and going on the call with him and seeing all the controlled chaos and the coordination and the work that was done with all the firefighters ---- it amazed me," Ates said.
Although Ates became a volunteer firefighter and Emergency Medical Service worker, he didn't start his full-time career in the field right away.
Ates originally worked as news director for a radio station, but he began to feel restless.
"It was difficult to write about the calls and not jump in there and help people," Ates said. "Finally, the wanting to help people won out."
After serving various departments for more than 22 years, Ates officially took over Aug. 21 as Eudora Fire Chief.
"The small town is where I enjoy it," Ates said. "It's where I enjoy living."
He replaced interim Fire Chief Mike Underwood, who held the position for almost 18 months before the city hired a new full-time chief.
"As far as the transition of taking the office, thanks to Chief Underwood, it's been much easier than anticipated," Ates said.
During the first few days of his position, Underwood helped lead Ates through the standard operating procedures of the Eudora City Fire Department.
"That's certainly made starting the job much easier," Ates said.
Although he will eventually work to help the department move forward, getting settled in and observing how things work will be key for Ates, he said.
"My game plan now is to just see how things work here," Ates said.
Once Ates settles in, he will start looking at what needs to be added or streamlined within the department, he said.
Ates will also continue the department's volunteer drive.
"I'd like to sit and go through the applications and get people on board," Ates said.
One of his proudest moments came in training new firefighter volunteers, Ates said.
After volunteer fire departments folded in two different towns, Ates was charged with training the crew of a combined department.
"They went to their first structure fire and I went with them," Ates said. "It did not go well."
The firefighters had trouble with the truck and connecting hoses, Ates said. The crew lost the structure.
"My task was to take that fire department and train them in the basics so they could be a good working team," Ates said.
After teaching the volunteers and leading them through training exercises, Ates watched the new department begin to gel together.
"It makes my heart warm to see them jump in and know what to do now," Ates said.
Having found a house near the station and time to settle in with his wife, Ates is looking forward to his future in Eudora.
"One thing I see that I really like is that this city is looking ahead," Ates said. "I'm hoping to do that with the fire department."