The Edmond Sun

Local News

November 9, 2012

New fire chief recalls past, looks to future

EDMOND — In 2002, on a Sunday afternoon, Jake Rhoades, his wife Brenda and their sons JT and Carter were coming back from a family reunion in Dallas.

They stopped in Edmond to eat. Not long after they were back on Interstate 35 — Jake and his wife were in the front seat, their sons in the back seat — they were chatting when a car crossed the center median and struck their vehicle.

Edmond Fire responded to the scene. His wife broke her neck; she suffered no permanent damage. Their oldest son cut his head requiring dozens of stitches. Then-Fire Chief Gil Harryman saw to it that the family members were sent to the same hospital. That night, Harryman also came to the hospital to see if there was anything they needed.

“It’s one of those things I was always grateful to Edmond for,” Rhoades said. “Their customer service was outstanding. That’s common in the fire service, but to be on the receiving end of that was tremendous for me.”

Just a few months before the crash, Rhoades had taken a fire service class with Edmond Fire Department personnel. Ten years later, he is the fire chief of the agency that helped his family after the crash; the city announced the hire in September.

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS

Rhoades has other ties to Edmond. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Oklahoma Christian University, where he played baseball. He began his career with the Stillwater Fire Department where he was promoted to training officer during his 16 years there. His family attended LifeChurch in Stillwater and they are newcomers at the Edmond campus.

At Stillwater, he rose through the ranks, learning a great deal along the way. During his time there, he worked with Jon Neely, Edmond’s current chief training officer. Rhoades was always training and did some other things around the state. He knew he wanted to progress to another level.

He served as assistant fire chief with Jenks Fire Rescue and as deputy of training and special operations chief with the Rogers Fire Department in Arkansas, where he served from 2009 until coming to Edmond.

Rhoades is a hands-on type of leader. He likes to do a little bit of everything. He’ll show up at a scene and pull hose. He recalled a third alarm call at a Rogers strip mall on a 104-degree day. When they arrived — he was with the initial crews — smoke was visible. They went to work and knocked down the fire. The business was able to reopen six months later.

“That was incredible for us,” he said.

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