Residents in Pine can sleep a little easier knowing they now have an official, permanent new fire chief.
Bob Lashua accepted the position two-and-a-half weeks ago, having served since September as the interim Pine fire chief.
A Pine resident since 1978, Lashua has been with the department for 23 years and served in virtually every capacity of firefighting. In his time with the department, calls have jumped 10-fold.
He has fought structure fires, brush fires, wildfires, and pretty much everything in between, as well as being a certified paramedic.
He began his career in firefighting full time in Pine in 1984, after serving as a reserve with the department for two years.
One of two applicants, Lashua said that while he hoped he might get the job, he was not certain it would happen.
"I definitely felt I was qualified," he said. "but I was still a little surprised when I got the news."
He thinks part of the reason he got the position was the fire district's desire to find someone from within the department.
"I have ties here, I know almost everyone in the community, I have 23 years with the fire department, a home, friends -- I just don't foresee leaving this community," Lashua said.
He said those ties will keep him in Pine for years to come.
Lashua said his new responsibilities will involve a lot more paperwork, which will keep him in the office more. However, he finds his new position just as challenging as fighting fires on the front line.
"Probably the biggest challenge I'm looking at right now is with budgeting -- our EMS (Emergency Medical Services) budget is going up all the time," said Lashua.
He said that when he began full time with the department in 1984, there were about 90 calls a year for emergency response. By 2007, that had jumped to more than 1,000.
Lashua said he will focus on making the department more accessible and wants to offer more public information updates and notices to help longtime and new residents cope with the unique issues facing people who live in Rim Country, who all must deal with the intrinsic issues of water and fires.
He lives in Pine with his wife of 26 years, Sheri, and has three grown children -- two sons and a daughter ranging in ages from 20 to 24.
His two sons, 24-year-old Robby and 22-year-old Ryan, work in the field of youth ministry in the Valley. His youngest, 20-year-old daughter Jessica, is studying to be a nurse.
Lashua graduated from Payson High School in 1980 and after a couple of years of looking at career options made the move to firefighting. He says he has never regretted it.
Even though he could retire any time, he said he looks forward to more years with the department and serving the people of Rim Country.