In just two weeks, assistant chief Tony Lambdin will retire from the East Peoria Fire Department after 26 years of service.



For a job he has had for more than two decades, Lambdin said it was a long road to get there and he fell into the profession completely by accident.


In just two weeks, assistant chief Tony Lambdin will retire from the East Peoria Fire Department after 26 years of service.

For a job he has had for more than two decades, Lambdin said it was a long road to get there and he fell into the profession completely by accident.

Right after high school graduation, Lambdin went to work for Caterpillar Inc., but found out it really was not the right fit for him.

Lambdin said the Vietnam War was going on at the time and he thought he would get drafted for it since his number was really low.

“I decided to join rather than wait to get drafted. Of course, that was the year they said no more draft and I was in the Army for four years,” Lambdin said.
Lambdin ended up back on the assembly line at Caterpillar in Mossville after leaving the Army.

He received a college education through the G.I. Bill while at Caterpillar, but he still did not know what to do with his life.

“This was around the time when Bradley University and other colleges had been offering the Myers-Briggs personality and temperament test. It showed your likes and dislikes and what you should and shouldn’t do for a career,” Lambdin said.

Ironically, the test showed Lambdin’s worst career fit was an assembly line worker, the job he currently had.

“That was funny, she didn’t even know what I was doing at the time,” Lambdin said.

The test results showed Lambdin needed something that would keep him constantly challenged, such as an attorney, law enforcement or a doctor.

“Then she said firefighter and it just clicked,” Lambdin said.

Lambdin was living in East Peoria at the time and the city had a paid on-call department.
Lambdin joined the department part-time paid on-call, and after four years, he said it gave him a taste of what to expect.

“We had about 18 full-time guys and 30 part-time guys. After the first call, I knew it’s what I wanted to do. I started the testing process to come on full-time and made it the second time at the top of the list,” Lambdin said.

Lambdin added it might seem cliched or corny to some, but he thinks you have to have a unique personality to work in public safety.

“It’s a bit of a rush and it’s no doubt an adrenaline issue. You have to enjoy it,” Lambdin said.
A fatal house fire Lambdin helped fight early in his career has been a memory he has never been able to shake.

“We had a big fire on Clark Street on a Thanksgiving morning. We lost an entire family of five. I had to do CPR on a baby and the baby died. That will always be stuck in my mind,” Lambdin said.
While Lambdin said he never grew up with dreams of wanting to be a firefighter, his teenage son is already expressing the desire to follow in dad’s footsteps.

“My kids have been in the firehouse since they were born, so it’s kind of funny the first time he said it was this past week. I have never said anything about it or pushed him into it, but I would be so proud,” Lambdin said.

While Lambdin said he is relatively proud of what he has accomplished, he considers his fire career fairly even keel and not one thing stands out as the best moment.

“I don’t have a lot of accolades and that’s fine. I’m proud of my whole career. I was union president for many years and to gain the rank of assistant chief makes me proud,” Lambdin said.
In his retirement, Lambdin said he plans to take to the open road on his motorcycle more often.
Lambdin already rides with two area groups — Patriot Guard Riders and Wind & Fire Motorcycle Club, a club for Harley-riding firefighters.

“To join, you have to send in a pic of yourself in your uniform on your bike with the application. We’re not the Hell’s Angels, but I enjoy doing it,” Lambdin said.

Lambdin plans to have a retirement celebration with family and friends in October at Abbas Grotto in East Peoria.

His last day on duty is Sept. 9.

“I’ve been able to retire for the last few years, but it’s been harder to do since I still enjoy it. The guys before me said I would know when it was my time and that’s true,” Lambdin added.
“It’s an enjoyable career and lifestyle, but it’s going to feel nice to sleep in my own bed every night rather than at the station with a bunch of guys,” he laughed.