Gayk Replaced By Gerken As Ontario Fire Chief

For the 32nd time in 132 years, the torch has been passed at the pinnacle of the Ontario Fire Department. Chief Deputy Mike Gerken on December 19 in the Ontario City Council Chamber recieved the department’s ultimate promotion when he was sworn in as the department’s 33rd Chief, replacing Ray Gayk, the department’s 32nd chief.
Chief Gerken has been a professional firefighter for more than 26 years, having initially hired on with the Alhambra Fire Department in 1996 as a paramedic. In 1998 he made a transfer to Ontario as a fireman, thereafter moving up the ranks to captain, battalion chief, deputy chief and chief deputy.
In his capacity as chief deputy, Gerken led the department’s operations bureau, overseeing emergency operations, specialty team programs and fire services at Ontario International Airport. He also served as fire marshal, guiding the fire prevention bureau’s citywide development projects, fire inspection program, and grant programs.
Gerken was an active member on the hazardous materials team for 16 years. During his tenure as a team leader and battalion chief liaison, that specialty unit evolved into a California Office of Emergency Services Type 1 hazardous materials handling resource and is now 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.
Gerken’s predecessor, Chief Gayk, has retired after a 33-year career that included service in the Riverside County Fire Department and the Redlands Fire Department before he landed a position as a firefighter in Ontario in 1997. He became chief in 2018.
During his time as Fire Chief, Gayk led the Ontario Fire Department Command Team in completing several high-level projects, such as developing its first standards of cover and strategic plan, completing the Ontario Fire Department Command Training Tower project, placing two fire stations into service in the Ontario Ranch area and placing the first Ontario Fire Department paramedic ambulance unit in service in over 40 years, and beginning the first Ontario Fire Department Fire Academy to create a more diverse workforce within the department.
Gayk served on the California Fire Chiefs Association as vice president of the operations section, area director, and on the state legislative committee, recently completing a 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 published articles in Fire Rescue Magazine and has spoken at numerous conferences on several topics related to the fire service throughout the United States.
“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.

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