Posts Tagged Loves Park Volunteer Fire Department

Loves Park Fire Department news

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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.

He’s been working to hire full-time firefighters since the department only has volunteers. 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 firefighters up to 20 minutes to respond to that part of the city. The city’s full time fire fighters start this week.

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

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New chief for the Loves Park Fire Department

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When former fire Chief Phil Foley got hurt on the job, veteran Firefighter Jerry Wiltfang was handed the chief’s responsibilities. He had been with the agency for less than a month as an assistant fire chief, but he had more than 30 years of service with the Rockford Fire Department and also had served as the emergency operations director for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office. Since February, Wiltfang has been acting fire chief, managing the volunteer fire department of about 35 active firefighters and an annual budget of about $750,000. His salary will be $86,000 a year.

On Monday, aldermen gave him a unanimous 10-0 vote of confidence by authorizing his appointment as full-time chief.

He persuaded the city council to give the department about $500,000 more per year, about $200,00 of which will go toward starting a day crew. As of Oct. 1, three firefighters will staff Station 1, 400 Grand Ave., from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Wiltfang also helped forge a partnership with the North Park Fire Protection District in Machesney Park to help both agencies respond to calls more quickly and share resources. The firefighters are receiving training to become emergency medical technicians.

Foley retired Aug. 20. after 53 years on the job. He joined the Loves Park Fire Department in 1965, was appointed volunteer fire chief in 1981, and full-time chief in 1999.

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Loves Park Fire Department news

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The Loves Park city council is considering bolstering its volunteer fire department with a daytime crew the city hopes can improve response times that are twice those of the neighboring North Park Fire Protection District.

Loves Park’s approximately 35 volunteer firefighters now respond from their homes when calls come in, a practice fire officials say explains their slower response times. To cut down on the time it takes to reach a fire, the city will work toward having three firefighters, along with two supervisors, staff its 400 Grand Ave. station from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., perhaps as early as August.

The firefighters would be paid $12 to $20 an hour depending on their experience. Because they would average 28 hours a week, there would be no health insurance benefits to finance. The move would cost the city up to $200,000 annually.

A review of response times for the first three months of the year shows Loves Park’s average response time was 15.2 minutes, compared with 6 minutes for neighboring North Park, which covers the southern half of Machesney Park and portions of unincorporated Winnebago County. Response times didn’t differ much by time of day.

Hiring the day crew would increase the fire department’s annual budget by 33 percent, pushing it to $1 million a year.

They were 27 minutes to 7349 Chucks Way and 24 minutes to both 12414 Kings Point Dr. and 5625 Covey Ridge Trail.

The three-month review also showed the benefits of a new auto aid agreement struck in February between the Loves Park and North Park fire agencies. Average response times dropped to 13.3 minutes in March, compared with 17.6 minutes that same month of February and 15.3 minutes in January.

Even with the North Park partnership and the addition of a day crew, Loves Park’s logistics challenges will be far from over. The mayor wants the city to build a new fire station estimated to cost about $5 million to continue working on response times near Mercyhealth Sportscore Two and the Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center under construction at the junction of East Riverside Boulevard and Interstate 90.

Because Loves Park doesn’t levy a property tax, its options for financing are limited to bonding or going to the voters for some form of tax revenues that would finance the construction.

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