BAYFIELD – The Upper Pine River Fire Protection District appointed its first female board member after the departure of longtime board member Casey Cook.
Lisa Bourque, a Vallecito resident and marketing professional, was sworn in during a public meeting Monday. She replaced Cook, who has worked with the district as a volunteer or board member for over 20 years. Cook left the board to move to South Dakota during his retirement.
“It’s been a real privilege and honor to work with all the people that I have,” Cook said. “... Where this department has gone in those years is amazing.”
The five-person board oversees the district’s budget and makes long-term financial decisions, like buying new equipment. They also represent the district at local, county and state levels and make policy decisions.
Cook served when Upper Pine was an all-volunteer department and when it turned into a paid fire department.
He volunteered during the Missionary Ridge Fire and a multitude of other fires in the district. He also helped fight Haggard’s Black Dog Tavern fire southwest of Lemon Reservoir around 2005. It was minus 17 degrees, fire hoses and firefighters’ hands were freezing, and firetrucks were sliding off the icy roads, he said.
“He wasn’t remiss to share his thoughts,” said John Beebe, board treasurer. “That’s actually one of the things that made him a good board member. He was willing to say what he felt.”
Cook was on the board through a decade of dissolving tax revenues, hardships and growth with the district, said Jeff Dyar, board president.
“Sitting up there behind the little counter is a pain in the ass some nights, some decades, so I want to thank you for hanging out for us,” Dyar said. “This is who we all want to become – this guy, who goes back and invests in the really good stuff for the humanity of our organization.”
The ceremony also introduced Bourque to crew members and other Upper Pine staff. Bourque said she is ready to start in her new position.
“I’m just really involved in the community and love all of you guys,” she told attendees. “That’s why I’m here. We just appreciate what Upper Pine has done for Vallecito, and I’m really looking forward to doing that throughout the rest of the other communities, too.”
Her first task as a board member will be to help with messaging and communication and to visit each station and community in the district, she said. She plans to talk to crew members about their needs and goals.
Although Bourque has never worked in the fire industry, she has been involved with Upper Pine for 11 years. She runs the Vallecito Facebook page, which functions as a community news source, and often helps Upper Pine communicate with community members about first response issues.
Bourque also holds leadership positions on several boards in Vallecito, including the Vallecito Community Event Center board and the Vallecito Fireworks Committee, Vallecito Marina Committee, and Christmas in Vallecito. Professionally, she was a high-tech software salesperson for 27 years across North America, and she currently runs a real estate company, Boletus Creek Appraisals, with her husband.
“Lisa, you’re our first female board member historically,” said Upper Pine Fire Chief Bruce Evans during the meeting. “Looking at our past board members, it’s all been pretty generic, so it’ll be good to have a little more variety there.”
Bourque has worked in male-dominated fields before, like when she sold mechanical and electrical engineering software.
She said she is used to being the only woman in a room, and she didn’t think twice when Cook offered to bend her over and kiss her when preparing to pose for a photo for The Durango Herald.
“I have worked around men primarily most of my career,” Bourque said. “If anything like that ever happens, I just blow it off. That’s why I’m so excited to work with Upper Pine – they’re such a good group of people, and I know that Casey was just joking.”
Upper Pine has one, full-time female firefighter and another in fire academy. Bourque said it would be great to have more women as firefighters, and she encouraged them to consider a board position after their time as crew members.
“It is a good thing that I’m in there because now (Upper Pine) can look at other women in the community that can follow in my footsteps,” Bourque said. “Upper Pine is getting with it.”
email@example.comAn earlier version of this story misspelled Jeff Dyar’s last name.