Chief Gerken has spent nearly three decades in fire service, most recently as Ontario’s Chief Deputy. In that role, he led the Fire Department’s Operations Bureau, overseeing emergency operations, specialty team programs and fire services at Ontario International Airport. He also has also served as Fire Marshal, guiding the Fire Prevention Bureau’s citywide development projects, fire inspection program, and grant programs.
His predecessor, Chief Gayk, has retired after a distinguished 33-year career that included service in the Riverside County Fire Department and the Redlands Fire Department before he landed his dream job as a firefighter in Ontario in 1997. He became Chief in 2018.
“We want to express our gratitude to Chief Gayk for his dedicated contributions to our community throughout the years. In his most recent achievement as a key member of the leadership team driving the public-private partnership that will unite various fire and emergency medical services agencies, along with ambulance transport services.” said Mayor Paul Leon.
Chief Gerken began his fire service career as a Paramedic for the Alhambra Fire Department in 1996. In 1998, Gerken joined the Ontario Fire Department and held the ranks of Firefighter, Captain, Battalion Chief, Deputy Chief and Chief Deputy.
Gerken was an active member on the Hazardous Materials team for 16 years. During his tenure as Team Leader and Battalion Chief Liaison, this special unit evolved into a CalOES Type 1 Haz-Mat resource and is recognized statewide as a premier program.
Gerken earned his master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Change Leadership from Gonzaga University. He received a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from San Diego State University. In addition, he graduated from Mount San Antonio College paramedic and fire academy programs and is a 28-year licensed paramedic.
During his time as Fire Chief, Gayk led the OFD Command Team in completing several high-level projects, such as developing its first Standards of Cover and Strategic plan, completing the OFD Command Training Tower project, placing 2 fire stations into service in the Ontario Ranch area and placing the first OFD Paramedic Ambulance unit in service in over 40 years and beginning the first OFD Fire Academy to create a more diverse workforce within the Department.
Gayk has served on the California Fire Chiefs Association as Vice President of the OPS section, Area Director and on the State Legislative Committee, recently completing his term as President. Gayk served the International Association of Fire Chiefs/Western Fire Chiefs Section as the California State Director.
Gayk has written over 40 nationally published articles in Fire Rescue Magazine and has spoken at numerous conferences on several topics related to the fire service throughout the United States.
Tuesday’s swearing in took place in Ontario City Council chambers.