Jerry McAdoo’s last day as chief of the Van Buren Fire Department will be Thursday, leaving behind a legacy of service to the city and the firefighters he has commanded for the past 13 years.
McAdoo, who joined the VBFD on Dec. 16, 1989, served as fire chief for 13 years.
"I am most proud that we have had no serious injuries to firefighters while I have been chief," McAdoo said. "The Lord has really looked over us and the 49 firefighters the City of Van Buren has today."
He also pointed to the many accomplishments which have allowed the department to keep up with the city’s growth and maintain its ISO 2 insurance rating.
McAdoo noted the Federal Emergency Management Agency grants to increase manpower and upgrade firefighting apparatus, the opening of a fourth fire station and hiring additional personnel.
"With the help of Mayor Bob Freeman, we have been able to purchase three new pumpers and a new leader truck is due to be delivered any day now," he said. "While I have been chief, I have worked closely with Dennis Gilstrap to get hazmat and technical rescue equipment the city and county needed to take care of its citizens."
Gilstrap is the emergency management coordinator for Crawford County.
McAdoo also said he is proud of the department’s first-responder program.
Two of the most memorable disasters for McAdoo were the aftermath of the April 21, 1996, tornado and the 2015 fire which destroyed the Motel 6.
"It was 17 degrees the morning of the motel fire," McAdoo recalls. "Water was freezing on the ground, firefighters were falling and nozzles were freezing up."
He recalls being called into work during the 1996 tornado.
"I was a driver then and everyone kept saying another tornado was on the way," McAdoo said.
When he announced his retirement earlier this month, accolades for his dedicated service were numerous.
Freeman presented McAdoo a key to the city at the June 21 council meeting. He received a standing ovation from the firefighters in attendance.
McAdoo said he was proud and humbled by the award, and as always, shared the honor with others and thanked the mayor and council for their support of the Van Buren Fire Department.
"This is the result of teamwork," he said. "And, you Mayor Freeman, have been the leader."
When McAdoo announced his retirement, the Van Buren Professional Fire Fighters Local No. 4078 posted on Facebook:
"The citizens of Van Buren, and in particular the Van Buren Fire Department, are losing not only his vast knowledge and expertise, but also a good man, friend and chief. We, the members of the Van Buren Professional Firefighters want to say ‘Thank You, Chief McAdoo for your service, you will definitely be missed.’"
McAdoo, who lives in Alma, was raised in Dyer, graduated from Alma High School in 1973 and was in the masonry business before joining the fire department.
"A friend of mine talked me into taking the test," McAdoo recalls. "Times were tough in the construction business and I was fortunate enough to get up high enough on the list to get hired. I was proud to get that stable paycheck."
McAdoo was the last firefighter hired by former Mayor Gene Bell. He was promoted to driver April 1, 1996, captain Nov. 1, 1999, battalion chief Sept. 1, 2002, and chief Nov. 2, 2003. He served under chiefs Jerry McGraw, Bobby and Dennis Gilstrap and Teasie Harris.
He and his wife, Mary, who is retired from the Alma School District, have a son, Bryan, 36, who fuels trains for Coastal Inc. at the Union-Pacific railroad yard in Van Buren.
McAdoo said he plans to work on his health so he can enjoy his retirement after 26 years with the fire department.
"The city has been good to me but everyone has to give it up sometime or another," McAdoo said. "I have enjoyed working with Bob, who has been good to me, the fire department and the city. I am really going to miss it."
But, he said the department will be in good hands with the promotion of Battalion Chief Tim Arnold.
"Tim has been by my side throughout the years," McAdoo said. "He will do a good job."