Last month, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue will make history with the promotion of its first female captain, Karen Bureker.
Bureker began her career at TVF&R 19 years ago as a firefighter paramedic. In 2006, she promoted to apparatus operator followed by a promotion to lieutenant in 2014.
“Being promoted into the role of captain was a very challenging and competitive process,” states Captain Bureker. “It was a goal of mine to move through the ranks from the time I began my career, and it is humbling to get the opportunity to lead some of the greatest members in the fire service. As I take on this new role, I will remain committed to helping everyone around me succeed and achieve their goals, while we effectively fulfill our mission in serving our communities.”
The role of captain for Bureker will include being responsible for a fire station and personnel management of three shifts of crews, including lieutenants, apparatus operators, firefighters, and paramedics. Bureker has always been a champion of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, and as captain, she will hold the critical leadership role of ensuring an inclusive and respectful environment and shaping a culture that promotes the health and safety of all personnel.
“Karen has demonstrated proficiency at every level in the organization and will continue to be successful in this new role,” states Fire Chief Deric Weiss. “She has risen up through the ranks over 19 years and performed at a high level in each of them. Knowing Karen, this is merely the next step in her career, but for the District, it is an important benchmark toward our collective goals. She leads by example and has the ability to manage both incidents and personnel extremely well. Beyond firefighting, she has led initiatives that have made the District more welcoming to all, and I look forward to watching her continued growth and leadership.”
This past summer, Bureker served as a mentor to young women during the annual Portland Metro Fire Camp, which provides an opportunity for girls ages 16-21 to test out the firefighting role while being led by professional female firefighters from across the west coast. The camp inspires girls to become firefighters, helping instill confidence in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
Bureker also actively participates in the yearly Women in Trades career fair, encouraging women to explore a rewarding career in the fire service.
According to a study released by the National Fire Protection Association, only 4% of career firefighters in the U.S. are female. As of today, TVF&R is hovering at just over 7%. In addition to the well-attended girls fire camp and career fairs, the District’s single-role paramedic program has helped boost the number of women applying to work on the line. These paramedics get a front seat to what the firefighting role entails and often opt to promote to firefighter-paramedics in future academies.