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Fire department elects first female chief

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Volunteer Fire Department is blazing some new trails.

Liane Colby was elected as the department's new chief April 7, and is the first female chief in its 105-year history.

Having first begun as a firefighter in 1989, Colby moved from Rensselaer County to Lake Placid in 1994 and joined the fire department there two years later.

"When I first wanted to join the fire department, my mom wanted to kill me," Colby said, "but she let me do it. I just really wanted to help people."

Through her career in law enforcement, Colby had access to valuable training that often crossed over to her capacity as a firefighter. It was some of those extra qualifications that led her colleagues to choose her as a captain and she slowly moved up the ranks to second assistant chief.

"I never aspired to be the chief," she said. "It was just a series of events that put me here."

When former chief Jim Wasson stepped down and first assistant chief Josh Favro took a position as a paid driver for the department, Colby was left as the favored candidate head of the department.

"I didn't really expect to be here," said Colby. "Jim needed a break and the membership decided I was next in line."

Her election marks the first time a woman has ever been chosen as fire chief anywhere in Essex County.

"I think it says a lot about the department that they are willing to choose the best person for the job regardless of gender," said New York State Association of Fire Chiefs executive director Thomas LaBelle.

LaBelle said more and more women have been joining fire departments in recent years, especially in places where there traditionally haven't been any. Likewise, the number of female chiefs continues to rise, but it still remains a rare occurrence.

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