BELOIT—Former Beloit Fire Chief Brad Liggett will be remembered by Stateline Area first responders and residents as someone who brought compassion and care into everything he did, from the fire service and beyond.
The Beloit Daily News spoke with multiple people who worked or volunteered with Liggett, 55, who passed away suddenly on Jan. 8. Liggett was a Rock Falls native and served in the U.S. Navy Reserve for four years as a hospital corpsman before coming to the Beloit area to continue his education. At the time of his passing, Liggett served as the City of Freeport Fire Chief, having departed Beloit in July of 2019.
Liggett worked his way up the ranks and served as Beloit fire chief from 2003 to 2019 as part of a long firefighting career in Beloit that started in 1989, according to Beloit Fire Deputy Chief Joe Murray.
Murray joined the department in 1994 and prior to that had participated in a youth firefighting program called Rescue Squad that Liggett managed. Over the years, Murray said he and Liggett worked multiple fires and medical calls together, with Murray recalling how kind Liggett was to patients—something that stuck with him his entire career.
“With working calls together and through station life you really get to know people and their families,” Murray said, who was promoted to Deputy Chief by Liggett in 2011. “After I was promoted, our working relationship was more integrated and we worked closer together on many projects.”
Murray said Liggett helped to move the fire service in Beloit forward, along with strengthening ties with neighboring communities as an early visionary of the benefits of the mutual aid system.
“His attention to detail was second to none,” Murray said. “He was very kind and good to people with compassion and care. You could tell he cared and I learned that compassion side of the job from him.”
Former South Beloit Fire Chief Ken Morse, who served as chief for over 36 years, said the collaboration between the two fire departments grew over the years as Liggett implemented joint programs from technical rescue and water rescue teams made up of personnel from both departments.
“He was an extremely good chief and he was easy to work with,” Morse said. “Any problems there were, they were easy to find solutions to.”
Through Liggett, Morse said neighboring municipalities formed a management team years ago to begin to rely on mutual aid responses.
“It’s like we worked together as one department at times,” Morse said.
In the moments after the Chemtool Fire in Rockton in June of 2021, Village of Rockton Fire Protection District Chief Kirk Wilson said Liggett assisted responding command staff by developing incident action plans for the operational periods during the entire length of the Chemtool response.
“He was definitely always willing to help during times of crisis,” Wilson said. “It was truly an honor to have been able to work alongside him.”
On a personal note, Wilson said Liggett was “always kind-hearted and had that generous smile while offering his hand for a handshake.”
Rock County 911 Director Kathy Sukus said she and Liggett started in public safety at around the same time in the late 80s, with Sukus starting at the Beloit Police Department in November 1988 and Liggett at Beloit fire in January of 1989. Over the years, Sukus said they stayed in touch and had similar career tracks after he was named chief in 2003 and she 911 Director in the county in 2012.
Since 2010 before departing Beloit in 2019, Liggett served as the chairperson of the Rock County 911 Commission. After a full-scale public safety drill at Beloit College in 2008, Sukus said Liggett took further interest in the 911 response team.
“He helped us create policies and was very progressive in his thinking with technology for our center,” Sukus said. “He was one to always show up at meetings, volunteer and give input on ideas. He also was just a supportive, caring and personal friend of mine and often gave me encouragement during my ups and downs throughout my career.”
Town of Beloit Fire Deputy Chief Rich Tippelt said Liggett was “usually always smiling” and “very friendly,” fondly recalling how Liggett would greet him.
“Whenever he and I would see each other, whether it be professionally or off-duty, he would always shake hands or hug and say, “How’s it going, brother?”
But Liggett’s passion for helping others didn’t stop at the fire service. The longtime Beloit firefighter was an early supporter of the Literacy for Life program in Beloit and an avid volunteer through the VetsRoll organization.
VetsRoll co-founder and organizer Mark Finnegan said Liggett was “instrumental” with planning the growth of the vastly popular service organization since 2010. In 2019, the most recent VetsRoll trip due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Liggett served on the VetsRoll medical team riding in Bus 4 and was responsible for producing all of the medical team’s training videos.
As a member of the department’s honor guard, Liggett was the VetsRoll liaison for the Wisconsin and Illinois fire chiefs associations handling the various fire department salutes for VetsRoll and for veteran repatriation funeral escorts from airports in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
“This horrible news is still settling in and it’s so hard to make any sense of it,” Finnegan said. “We’ve lost one of those great men that everyone loved being around.”
Visitation for Liggett will be from 4—9 p.m. on Jan. 14 at Central Christian Church, 2460 Milwaukee Road, Beloit. Another visitation will be held from 9:30—11:30 a.m. on Jan. 15 at Central Christian Church with funeral services following at noon.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Daley Murphy Wisch.