Ohio fire department mechanic retires after four decades on the job 

April 5 • 2024

Chuck Bates has been keeping Shaker Heights Fire Department apparatus response-ready for the past 40 years. But the long-time mechanic, now in his mid-70s, is ready to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.  

“Chuck has not only been a great mechanic but a true friend,” Shaker Heights (Ohio) Local 516 President Chuck Huddleston said. “He was there for us anytime we needed him, even in his off hours. His boisterous personality will certainly be missed around the kitchen table.” 

Bates began working with the city in 1972, for the Department of Public Works. He was assigned as the fire department mechanic in 1986 despite having no experience working on fire trucks or water pumps. 
He told Shaker Life magazine, “I had to figure it out. But an engine is an engine, and a motor is a motor, and they all had to be ready to go.” 

The job was supposed to last a few months, but he was so good at it, Bates became the first civilian to be hired as the department’s full-time mechanic. 

Soon, he was repairing apparatus and essentially building new ones. In fact, he once merged the frame and wheels from a 1986 pumper truck with mechanical equipment from a 1967 pumper. The goal was to convert the apparatus from all manual to automatic. It worked.  

“Chuck was never a fire fighter, but he was definitely one of the team. He has always been truly dedicated to the job and keeping our members safe,” Huddleston said.  We made it official in 2018 when we made him an honorary Local 516 member.” 
Local 516 active and retired members hosted a “last lunch” for him on March 28. Over 100 people attended. 

“On behalf of all the members of the Shaker Heights Professional Fire Fighters, we wish him a long and happy retirement,” the Local 516 president said.