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Fire department elects first female chief

"I'd say there are probably less than 100 out of 1,700 fire departments statewide," said LaBelle.

Why is there a rise in the number of female firefighters? LaBelle said it's because more women are beginning to see it as an option for them and a way to contribute to their community.

"Also, the departments have become broader in their vision as to all the different resources that people can bring to the fire department," he explained, noting that valuable skills like management, team-building, and recruitment are not exclusive to either gender.

In Lake Placid alone, there are five women on the department's roster of 50; still a stark minority, but the chief doesn't mind.

"I've never had any problems," Colby said. "I've always gotten along with the guys, and they've always backed me."

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