Michele Pankow was sworn in as the 11th Fire Chief of The Rockford Fire Department on September 8, 2021. She made history when she became the first woman in the existence of the Department to serve as the Fire Chief. Before serving as Fire Chief, she was the Division Chief of Operations, which included the Emergency Services Disaster Agency Coordinator for the City of Rockford. Additionally, since starting with the Department in 1992, Chief Pankow has served as a Firefighter, a Training Officer, an EMS Operations Chief, a Lieutenant, a Captain, and a District Chief.
Chief Pankow has a Bachelor's degree from Southern Illinois University and a Master's degree in public administration from Northern Illinois University. She also holds certification as an Illinois Professional Emergency Manager (IPEM) from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, and designation as a Chief Fire Officer (CFO) through the Center for Public Safety Excellence. Chief Pankow was awarded the American Red Cross Disaster Services Hero in April 2021, an award given by the Red Cross of Illinois to honor individuals for great acts of bravery, dedication and service in our Community.