Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten says goodbye

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten has officially landed in Colorado, to take over the Fort Collins Fire Department.

Bergsten officially clocked out Friday morning after spending two decades in the Forest City.

Bergsten said he never thought, when he joined the department at 23-years-old, that he would one day lead the department.

He said a former chief told him, “‘you’re going to be the chief of the fire department,’ and I thought, sure thing! Well, then he came to my swearing in and said, ‘I could tell by how much you committed to the organization, and how much you love what you do.'”

Bergsten says he will miss Rockford. “I think that’s what really makes me sad, when you think about those relationships and bonds that you’re leaving behind.”

He said he remains confident that changes he employed within the department will continue in his absence, including improving the cardiac survival rate, upgrading and replacing fire trucks and ambulances, creating an annual program that reunites survivors with their heroes, and becoming one of only 20 departments in the world to receive a special dual accrediation.

“There isn’t anything I wish I would have done, because it’s made the organization what it is today,” Bergsten said. “That’s what I tell the people who work here: you’re going to make mistakes. It’s how you react to those mistakes.”

Bergsten was Rockford’s 10th chief since the 1800’s, all of whom have been hired internally, managing Illinois’ second busiest department.

He said while his wife and kids are moving with him to Colorado, it is bittersweet, knowing he’s walking away from the other family he’s had for the last 25 years.

“This is my hometown, and always will be,” he said.

The City’s Fire and Police Commissioners have named Division Chief Bob Vertiz as Interim Chief while they search for Bergsten’s replacement.

Vertiz takes over on Saturday.

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