New fire chief takes the helm at the Beaver Creek Township Fire Department
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A firefighter and EMT with a wealth of experience downstate recently assumed the helm for the Beaver Creek Township Fire Department.
Doug Bourgeois served his first day on the job as the Beaver Creek Township fire chief on Feb. 1.
Bourgeois, who is from Royal Oak, often visited Crawford County during high school and college with a friend whose family had a place located off of Chase Bridge Road.
“When this job opportunity came up, I took a long hard look at it, because I do like the area,” he said.
Bourgeois earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University Marquette in conservation and criminal justice with intentions of working for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
“I wanted to be a conservation officer, and it just never panned out,” he said.
Bourgeois accepted his first job in 1995 with Highland Township, which is west of Pontiac and south of Flint in Oakland County, as a paid on-call firefighter. The township has a population of 19,000 people and the fire department covers 36 square miles. The department averages 1,350 runs per year with an average of 30 structure fires.
Bourgeois said the department put their firefighters through EMT training, enhancing public safety and response times.
“That’s what I did, and I love it and I just kept going from there,” Bourgeois said.
Bourgeois became a fire inspector in 1999, and a fire marshal in 2006.
Bourgeois said one of the most notable fires he responded to was in 2015, when the Highland Feed & Supply Co. landmark building burned down.
“That was a huge fire and we had nine departments called out to fight that one,” he said.
At Beaver Creek Township, Bourgeois is focused on building up the membership of the fire department, which has three full-time and four paid on-call firefighters.
Ultimately, Bourgeois would like to have 15 paid on-call fire firefighters on staff to serve the township as well as the surrounding area through mutual aid.
“If I have 15 people to pull from, at any given time if a run drops, I might only get four of those people,” he said. “The other ones are working or out of town.”
Bourgeois said he will also increase firefighter training with hazardous materials and will introduce instruction on confined space rescue, which could be a person who falls into a large hole or a piece of equipment.
“It could be a big piece of machinery with one opening that they were cleaning and fell into,” he said.
Bourgeois said firefighters joining the department would be expected to obtain firefighting level one and two training as well as training to serve as EMTs.
“That’s the direction I’m going in right now,” he said.
Bourgeois is the third fire chief in the history of the Beaver Creek Township Fire Department, replacing Roger Weatherly, who retired effective Jan. 31. Ed Holtcamp was the founding fire chief in 1982, when the department was established due to the building of the Weyerhaeuser and Georgia Pacific plants.
Bourgeois has met with area fire chiefs and law enforcement.
“It’s definitely a learning curve,” Bourgeois said of taking the reins of a fire department covering a rural area. “It’s a different game up here, compared to downstate, where it’s a little more condensed. When I called for mutual aid, it was there rather quickly.”
Bourgeois brings a structured approach to fire prevention, suppression, and firefighter instruction and recruitment and retention to Crawford County. He said he is planning for a potential high wildfire danger season due to the mild winter in the area.
“I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the experience.”
Bourgeois has two sons, Eric, who is serving in a U.S. Army tank unit in Kuwait, and Glen, a junior in high school in Highland. His fiancée, Terri, is a member of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Unit, one of the oldest horse patrol units in the country. She is also an experienced firefighter.
Bourgeois has been involved in the martial arts for over 40 years and is a sixth degree black belt in TaeKwon Do. He is also an avid beekeeper.
Bourgeois is currently seeking to buy a large parcel of land in Beaver Creek Township.
“We have horses, so I’m looking for a bigger piece of property,” he said.