Dixon Rural, Rock Falls swear in new fire chiefs

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 became that department’s newest chief earlier this year.

Dustin Dahlstrom, a 12-year member of the department, officially became chief Jan. 16, taking over after Sid Aurand, who has been Dixon Rural’s chief since 2014, retired from the position.

“I enjoy being able to help people. It’s something different all the time. It’s not a mundane, monotonous job. … It’s a very fulfilling and rewarding career.”

—  Rock Falls Fire Chief Ken Wolf

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.

“Starting young, I was always at the firehouse 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 to 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.

“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.”

Wolf sworn in as Rock Falls chief

Ken Wolf became Rock Falls fire chief Feb. 1. The Rock Falls City Council on Jan. 2 appointed Wolf to succeed Chief Cris Bouwens as head of that fire department.

Wolf joined the Rock Falls Fire Department in 1998. Before that, he worked as a certified nurse’s aide and at a steel mill. He was promoted to captain in 2013 and then to deputy chief in 2021.

“I’ve always loved the department, and I wanted to help see it grow,” Wolf said, noting that becoming chief was a natural career progression. “The leadership positions opened up, and I pursued them.”

His goals as fire chief include expanding the department’s community education programs and continuing to work toward building a joint training facility with the Sterling Fire Department.

The department regularly conducts programming for Rock Falls schools, but Wolf said he wants to offer more courses for adults, including fall prevention and fire safety – especially in larger apartment complexes.

“I enjoy being able to help people,” Wolf said. “It’s something different all the time. It’s not a mundane, monotonous job. … It’s a very fulfilling and rewarding career.”

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Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.