Dustin Dahlstrom selected next Dixon Rural fire chief

New Dixon Rural Fire Chief Dustin Dahlstrom talks about the working relationship Dixon City and Dixon Rural has with one another.

DIXON – A longtime Dixon Rural firefighter has been tapped to become the department’s next chief.

Dustin Dahlstrom, a 12-year member of the department, officially becomes chief on Jan. 16, taking over after Chief Sid Aurand retires from the position. Dahlstrom will spend a little more than a month working alongside Aurand as the current chief prepares for retirement on Jan. 15. Aurand has been Dixon Rural’s chief since 2014.

Dahlstrom, a 2003 Rock Falls High School graduate, grew up around the fire service: His grandfather Regis Dahlstrom served more than 30 years as a paid on-call firefighter with the Rock Falls Fire Department. Dustin’s father, Curt Dahlstrom, served on the Rock Falls department for more than 10 years, also as a paid on-call firefighter.

Dustin Dahlstrom has been named new Dixon Rural Fire Chief.

“Starting young, I was always at the fire house and watching them leave for calls,” Dustin said of his childhood. “We kind of grew up in that family.”

Dustin would follow the same path. After high school graduation and earning an associate’s degree in business management and automotive technology at WyoTech, he came back to the Sauk Valley and joined the Rock Falls Fire Department in 2007 as a part-time firefighter.

“I got all my first training certificates through Rock Falls as a paid on-call firefighter,” Dustin said. “They pushed me through all that and I started testing for fire departments. I tested for Rock Falls and Dixon (Rural) and Dixon made the phone call.”

He joined Dixon Rural in February 2011. It’s a department that provides services to the roughly 148 square miles that surround the city of Dixon. The area also includes a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 88, 19 miles of river, and two substations, one in Nachusa, the other in Grand Detour. Ten sworn members, including the chief, are joined by a fluctuating number of paid on-call firefighters – anywhere from 10 to 16 – who fill out the department’s roster. A three-member board of trustees oversees the department.

Dahlstrom said that under his leadership the department will continue as an all-hazards department that also has six members designated to the MABAS 18 Technical Rescue Team, and will continue its working relationships with all its mutual aid departments.

He said internal goals are to continue the department’s high level of training and its all-hazards approach that includes technical and water rescues and ambulance services.

It also will continue working alongside the Dixon Fire Department as they serve city and rural residents. That often happens at the same call scene. As an example, Dahlstrom said, Dixon Rural, Dixon City and Advance EMS already are toned out together to respond to structure fires, no matter whether the fire is in the city or the rural area.

He said one of the first areas he plans to address is working alongside Dixon’s city department to develop joint operational guidance and command structure guidelines to follow when on calls together.

“When we’re getting off the trucks, it’s very important we’re working off the same playbook,” he said.

The two departments do have a joint training program – one that Dahlstrom established when he was an officer - that includes Rescue Thursdays and Fire Fridays.

“Those are two designated days to work on rescue and fire when their shifts fall on those days,” he said. “It’s worked very well. We’ve had great buy-in and our training numbers are skyrocketing due to this program.

“As far as working together, [Dixon City] Chief Ryan Buskohl and I work very well together. We have like visions. We have a great working relationship.”

As to why he pursued a career in the fire service, the answers come easy.

“It’s the desire and the need to help people and it was always intriguing to be part of this lifestyle,” Dahlstrom said. “Just helping and knowing that every day is a different day in the fire service.”

Dahlstrom and his wife, Sarah, have a 6-year-old daughter, Eva, and a 3-year-old son, Trenton.

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.