Michele Pankow becomes Rockford’s first woman Fire Chief

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford’s new Fire Chief, Michele Pankow, has been with the Fire Department since 1992. In 2016, she made Rockford history as the first female Division Chief. Now, she’s making history again.

For nearly 30 years, Michele Pankow has been working her way up from within the department, from being a lieutenant, captain and district chief.

“I have worked just about every position there is in the fire department,” she said. “I have been promoted through all of our ranks.”

She said after Monday’s announcement of her new title, by the Fire and Police Commissioners, that she’s found her second family.

“I just fell in love with this department: the people and what I do. And it’s been that way, ever since,” she said.

Pankow says she has a list of things she plans to work on, including call response time.

“I would like to see our efforts focused on…EMS calls and the medical calls, efforts focused on trying to reduce those on the front end,” she said.

Following Monday’s announcement, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said he believes Pankow has the skills to do that.

“When you look at Michele Pankow, she’s headed up the emergency operations center, she’s been the chief of operations, she knows the fire department inside and out. She’s thoughtful, she’s compassionate, incredibly knowledgeable and she has amazing leadership skills. She’s going to do a phenomenal job,” he said.

Pankow said she’s eager to get to work.

“I have spent my entire career learning about this department – serving this department and I hope to continue to do that,” she said.

She added that she feels both proud and humbled to take on the new position, and wants young boys and girls to know that hard work and dedication do pay off, even if there are a few struggles along the way.

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