GALENA, Ill. — In his three decades with the Galena Fire Department, Fire Chief Randy Beadle has watched the field transform around him.
From increased training requirements to better science behind the behavior of a fire, the tactics of firefighting have shifted considerably — but some things never change.
“We still have to put water on a fire to put it out,” he said, chuckling.
Beadle, a lifelong resident of Galena, will retire this May after 31 years with the department and eight years as chief. He followed in the footsteps of his father, Don, who served on the force for 33 years himself and was chief for three years before his death in 1986.
Beadle recalled visiting the fire station with his father from the time he was 5 years old.
“It was just pretty much the way I was brought up, and I just got a love for it, and it never left,” he said.
Don also was instrumental in starting the ambulance service in Galena, and Randy Beadle spent time as an emergency medical technician before becoming a paramedic.
He moved into the suburbs of Chicago but found that the fast-paced work environment in the larger city “wasn’t my cup of tea.” After one year, he returned to Galena, where he joined the fire department in 1989. From there, he rose through the department’s ranks, becoming lieutenant in 1994, captain in 1999 and assistant chief in 2005 before being elected chief in 2013. He also served on the ambulance service for 25 years, eventually becoming its coordinator.
Looking back on his career, a particularly memorable event was the March 2015 derailment in which 21 rail cars carrying crude oil left the tracks. Ten ruptured and eight caught fire.
“To be able to coordinate and get through that without any loss of life or any real major injuries to anybody was something that I’m very proud of,” Beadle said.
City Administrator Mark Moran praised Beadle for the professionalism he brought to the fire department.
“I think Randy has brought a very level-headed leadership, and he’s very thoughtful,” he said. “I think he’s been very strong in terms of enacting policies and procedures aimed at making the department even more professional and protecting the officers in terms of safety and training.”
Moran also mentioned Beadle’s successful recruitment efforts and emphasis on bringing a female presence to the volunteer firefighting force.
For Beadle, that diversification is one of his proudest accomplishments.
“Being able to see that happen when I was assistant chief and chief was huge,” he said. “It was something that needed to happen, something that was a long time coming.”
The fire department will vote on its next chief during its meeting on Monday, April 12. That recommendation will be sent to the City Council.
Assistant Chief Bob Conley is running unopposed, and he is expected to take over on May 10, which will be Beadle’s final day with the department.
Although he’s excited to spend more time with his wife, two daughters and soon-to-be-two grandchildren, all of whom live in Galena, Beadle said it will take some time to get used to the idea that when the alarm sounds, it’s no longer his responsibility.
“It’s been my life for 31 years that every Monday night, I went to the firehouse for (training),” he said. “It’s not going to be an easy thing to walk away from, but there comes a time, and the time is now.”