New Loves Park fire chief hopes to reduce emergency response time

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In the City of Loves Park, there’s a new fire chief. Jerry Wiltfang, who was sworn in last month, spent almost his entire life fighting fires for the Rockford Fire Department, but he’s faced with a new challenge at a different department — he wants to reduce response times in Loves Park when a caller dials 911.

“The goal is to reduce our response time from the current 15 minutes to somewhere around 6 minutes,” Wiltfang said.

Former Fire Chief Phil Foley retired after getting hurt on the job. Wiltfang became the interim chief shortly after, in February.

Since then, he’s been working to hire full-time firefighters since the department only has volunteers.

“Folks will not have to travel from home to the fire station to the incident,” Wiltfang said. “They will be right here and be able to leave for the incident, right here.”

Plans are in the works to build a third fire station on the far east side of the city, which will cost roughly $5 million. Right now, it can take fire fighters up to 20 minutes to respond to that part of the city.

“Now, Loves Park extends way past I-90 and close to Argyle, and consequently, we’re 11 miles away from there, so again, that affects our response time and our ability to help those people, timely,” Wiltfang said.

Chief Wiltfang also served as the emergency operations director for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office for several years.

The city’s full time fire fighters start this week.

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