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Fire chief announces resignation at meeting

Larson’s last day on the job will be Sept. 27

ROCK FALLS – After 33 years as the Rock Falls fire chief, J.W. Larson will resign at the end of September.

The letter of resignation officially was handed in Friday; it will be effective Sept. 28, Mayor Bill Wescott said at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting. Larson’s last day on duty will be Sept. 27.

Deputy Fire Chief Gary Cook, who also serves as the Sterling fire chief, could take over as the interim fire chief, but that’s a move that would need the consent of the City Council and mayor, City Administrator Robin Blackert said.

Rock Falls and Sterling have been discussing consolidating their respective fire departments’ administrative offices and those discussions won’t be rushed, Blackert said.

“Those talks are continuing,” she said. “This won’t change anything. It really won’t even change the timetable.”

Sterling did a fire consolidation study, which advised against a consolidated fire department, Blackert said. The change will be for the administrative offices.

Larson was named fire chief on Jan. 5, 1988, after being hired as a firefighter April 15, 1975, and promoted to lieutenant on July 1, 1982, Wescott said.

“It was just time, with family and things – no particular reason,” Larson said. “It was just a good time.”

During his 38 years with the fire department, Larson said the biggest fire he fought was at the Goodyear Building in the early 1990s. It was in the middle of the day and the weather cooperated just as the firefighters needed, he said.

“There was a slight wind blowing from the south,” Larson said. “So it was blowing the smoke away from Rock Falls and into Sterling. And it was just one of those things where we asked a lot of the surrounding departments for help [and] pumped water on it.”

Assistance from area fire departments, including Sterling’s, helped limit the damage to surrounding buildings and prevent any injuries, Larson said.

“There are so many great memories and some bad memories,” he said. “We’ve lost some citizens in fires over the years. And a lot of firefighters that I served with for a number of years have passed. So you have those losses, but it’s always been a great experience working with firefighters.”

The Rock Falls City Council also approved a 3-year agreement with the IBEW Local 196 Clerical Employees union, which includes a 2 percent raise. There are six city employees covered in the agreement, Blackert said.

To attend

The Rock Falls City Council next meets at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 3, at City Hall, 603 W. 10th St. 

The agendas will be posted at and at City Hall. Call 815-622-1100 for more information.

The City Council meeting also can be viewed live on Channel 5.

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