Newly hired firefighter/paramedics Troy Vandenbroek and Zachary Bullard with their new brothers-in-arms of the Belvidere Fire Department.

By Anne Eickstadt


With Cpt. Mark Zumbragel and Firefighter/Paramedic Chuck Rotolo retiring, the Belvidere Fire Department would be running shorthanded, so two new firefighters have joined the team. Troy Vandenbroek and Zachary Bullard swore their Oath of Office at City Hall with family and Belvidere firefighters in attendance.

“Welcome to Candidates Troy Vandenbroek and Zachary Bullard,” said Chief Al Hyser. He went on to welcome the men’s family members and significant others. “Both of these men were raised in Belvidere and graduated from Belvidere High School. Both are certified paramedics, certified rescue divers and certified Fire Service Instructors. They also both hold numerous other certifications from the Office of the State Fire Marshall.”

Hyser explained the process the men went through to become a firefighter–written test, background check, polygraph test, oral interview, psychological exam and physical exam. City Clerk Sarah Turnipseed led them in their Oath of Office, and Vandenbroek’s girlfriend, Carolyn, pinned on his badge and Bullard’s girlfriend Andrea (Rockford police officer) pinned on his badge. Then a round of pictures and everyone headed over to Belvidere Fire Station #1 for cake and camaraderie.

“The biggest reason I decided to become a firefighter was my father,” said Vandenbroek. “I was an athlete all my life. Teams and my family were what were most important to me. My father shone a light on the fact that teamwork and family were a big part of fire service. He felt I would work well as a part of the fire service team/family.

“I attended Rock Valley College for a degree in fire science. I earned my EMT in 2016 and became a paramedic in 2018. I loved the atmosphere, solving problems, and being able to work as part of a team. I volunteered as a firefighter with Boone County Fire #2 and began testing for fire departments.

“In 2018, I was hired in Capron. I worked there as a firefighter for just under three years. I began testing for the Belvidere Fire Department and was lucky enough to be high enough on the list to be considered. I have worked with some of the BFD firefighters at fire and accident crash emergency scenes. Both of us, Zachary and I, helped to fight the Jackson St. fire a few years ago. Now we get to work side-by-side with them on the same team.”

Bullard said, “The day I knew I was destined for this career, I was already in the process for getting onto the Boone #2 firefighter team. A person fell off a ladder and broke his ankle. I happened to be there and was able to stabilize his foot and stem the bleeding. I thought, ‘This is something I can really do.’ I was 27 at the time and worked at Boone #2 for seven years.

“I started by getting my EMT Basic and Troy and I started testing at several departments and were hired by Byron Fire Department together. We both knew where we really wanted to be–at the Belvidere Fire Department. We tested for the BFD and were hired at the same time. It’s a surreal moment.”

“He’ll be a good asset to the department,” said BFD Firefighter/Paramedic Dan Drall as he passed by.

“I worked on the rescue dive team with Drall,” said Bullard. “I am so happy to be here. We both are. We have taken many classes and we both have over 15 state certifications to bring to our service with the BFD.”

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