Blazing a trail for other women to follow, Durant’s first and only female firefighter recently retired after a career that spanned 22 years and overcame doubts from some men who questioned a woman’s ability to meet the demanding requirements.
Lisa Jackson wasn’t happy with her role in a sewing factory and was looking for a challenge when her husband, Jeff, noticed a job opening for two firefighters at the Durant Fire Department. He told his wife, she was one of the toughest women he knows and she should apply. She had served six years in the U.S. Air Force and was a bodybuilder.
The attractive blue-eyed blonde raised some eyebrows when she walked in the employment office and asked for an application for the firefighter positions at the Durant Fire Department.
“The man taking applications questioned me about my ability to climb ladders and other physical aspects of the training,” said Jackson.
After assuring the man she was fully capable of handling the job physically, he told her the city would have to let her take the written test. The test consisted of basic math, reading and other subjects which she passed with flying colors. Then came the agility test where applicants were required to run one and one half miles, do push-ups, sit ups, pull ups and carry 100 pounds. She had lifted weights while in the military and she felt comfortable with her performance.
She waited almost a week, and then one day she was called to the office at the sewing factory where Fire Chief Junior Manners was waiting to talk to her. He had personally made the trip to invite her to come to his office later for an interview. Following the interview, she was selected, and after taking a medical physical, attended firefighters training in Stillwater.
Having a female in the living quarters at the fire department was something new for her male counterparts, but they took it in stride, and as far as she knows, there was never any resentment. There were some changes made to the arrangements in the living quarters that included installing locks on the bathroom door and the men were required to wear shorts over their underwear at bedtime.
“I was changing their way of life and the way they had done things,” said Jackson. “There was never any resentment or disrespect.”
She would learn later that there were some doubters in the department and questions among a few that she could physically do the job entrusted throughout the history of the department solely to men. It didn’t take long for her personality and attitude to win them over. “I know they won me over,” she beamed.
Most of the memories over the years that haunt her the most are not of firefighting, but assisting in automobile accidents where many of the victims were children. Her role would later change from actual firefighting to one of investigating the cause of fires.
She grew up with an attitude to always improve herself and when Fire Marshal Dale Joines and Fire Chief Junior Manners both retired, she saw an opportunity to advance. While she had only been in the department six years she had gained plenty of confidence in her ability to handle any job. She counted on the confidence and attitude when she applied for both jobs, and eventually, was selected for the fire marshal position, a post she would hold for the remainder of her career.
With two teenage children at home and another daughter with two children, the mother and grandmother wants to spend time with her family, but will eventually follow another dream, whatever it may be. Her children, Josh, 14, and Nicole, 13, attend school at Durant and are actively involved in all kinds of sports. They are thrilled to have their mother able to attend sporting events with them. Her older daughter, Sommer Corzine lives in Durant with her family.
Lisa was a 1986 graduate of Blue High School, and in her junior year she was voted “Miss Blue.” While it may have been an omen of her future career, the night she was crowned with the title, the old gym burned to the ground.
With her job as fire marshal, she was able to be home with her children. She attended investigative classes and schools for the first few months. While she was always on call, her job gave her an eight-hour day with weekends free for her family.
“My future plans depend on God,” she said. “I have let him have the steering wheel and I will let him decide where to go from here.”
Saying goodbye is very emotional for Jackson after developing a great love for the community and close relationships during her career. She would like to thank all the guys at the fire department and community who have supported her during her employment. “They have had a large impact in my life and I will always be grateful to everyone.”
With her drive and ambition, she will more than likely begin a new career after her children are grown and don’t be surprised if she aims for the stars.