The Orange Fire Department's new fire chief is certainly no stranger to the ranks.
David Rudat, 42 began his career with the department more than two decades ago, most recently serving as acting fire chief since Ed Rowlette retired in April.
"As far as I was concerned there never really was any other candidate," said City Manager Dave Dixon, who announced the selection Sept. 13. "I'm grateful that he's here so that we can continue to provide the outstanding leadership that Orange has always had."
The dedication Rudat has to the department was cultivated at a young age.
As a child, Rudat said he was inspired by two uncles working in fire departments and his mother, who was the Orange Fire Department's fire prevention secretary for many years.
And, his fire service began even before he was old enough to land his first fire-fighting job.
He was a charter member of the Orange Fire Explorers post during his years at Villa Park High School.
After graduation, Rudat worked his was up through the ranks, starting as a fire fighter and moving on to paramedic, engineer, captain, battalion chief and assistant chief under Rowlette.
"I have done most jobs in the department and held most positions in my time with Orange," Rudat said.
Rudat complemented his experience with a bachelor's degree in accounting at California State University, Long Beach and will soon complete his master's degree in public administration at the University of Southern California.
As administrative captain, Rudat took on extra duties with the City manager, performing budgetary analyses and serving on special committees.
"I sought out the opportunities because I felt that if I ever were to become chief, I could do a better job if I knew how the rest of the city operates," he said.
Though most of his time is now spent behind a desk, Rudat said nothing compares to the thrill of fighting a fire.
"Being responsible for saving somebody's life, it's very rewarding," he said.
That thrill was renewed last fall when Rudat fought alongside his fire crews in the heart of the Laguna fires.
"It was very exciting, very rewarding to be part of it all," he said. "We really made a difference."
Now that duty calls him away from the fire's front lines, Rudat leaves the hands-on fighting to his staff.
But, he never wants to get too far away.
"I still go to the fires to keep in touch with what they're going through," he said. "It's too easy to get caught up with the political, managerial and financial aspects. I don't want to lose sight of our most important resource - the people out doing the job."
Between the department's regular tasks of fire inspections, hydrant maintenance, training and emergencies, Rudat wants to see the community education programs expanded during his administration.
"We want to make time to go out to organizations to educate and train the public on what they can do to prevent emergencies," he said.
Recently the department completed a home fire detector installation program for the elderly and coordinating a speakers bureau for organizations warning to learn about disaster preparedness.
The department is continuing to expand its services to the community with programs such as fire safety for residents near wildlands and pool safety.
The department may also expand their boundaries under Rudat's administration.
Villa Park is considering a switch in fire services and his discussed a contract with Orange.
Villa Park contracts for fire service from the county fir department, but may withdraw because of potential fee hikes.
Rudat said he would welcome that opportunity.
"We are positioned very well to bring Villa Park the same level of service as we give to Orange," he said.
Regardless of the outcome of that opportunity, Rudat looks forward to many years of serving Orange.
Rudat said his lon history with the city has given him some insight into its special needs and he is ready to put that knowledge into action. "My contributions to the city are many, but they're really just beginning."