Added: Tyanna Deboer - Date: 22.12.2021 14:36 - Views: 24897 - Clicks: 4181
Some people, like moths, are drawn to flame.
For those that find their way into wildland firefighting, there is an allure to a forest fire: hearing the freight train- like roar as it advances, seeing the columns of smoke that rise into the sky, feeling the heat that permeates Nomex pants and shirts and can make trees explode in a shower of sparks. For some, the challenge of the fight against a fire is the attraction: the sprint to contain it, the din of air support delivering paylo of water and retardant, the exhaustion of a hour workday, and the battle weary comradery that comes from spending day upon day with the same overly-tired, overly-caffeinated and overly-filthy people.
This is not to romanticize this work; but there is no question it provides a charged and exciting challenge. Wildland firefighting offers both the promise of a decent paycheck and the opportunity to work outside, but most who stay in the profession have some form of addiction — to the adrenaline, to the challenge, or to the escape it offers from the real world.
These are equal opportunity addictions, and the fix — fighting fire in a remote forest — is sought by both men and women. Women have been trained to fight forest fires since the turn of the 20th century, during times when males were stretched thin during U. The first evidence of women fighting fires on National Forests was inwhere photos show wives of Forest Service rangers trained to help battle fires in what is now the Mendocino National Forest in California.
The first women in the postwar period known to have actually been paid by the Forest Service for fire suppression served on an all-women wildland firefighting crew on the Lolo National Forest in Montana in the s. Including the most elite crews. Wildland firefighting is a complex endeavor, and the Forest Service plays a primary role in staffing and funding suppression efforts on public lands not just National Forests across the nation.
Wildland firefighting resources are deated as a Type I, Type II, or Type III resource based on power, experience, leadership and availability, with a Type I resource providing greater overall capability due to skill, size, capacity and experience. Without question, working on or near a fireline is dangerous.
To earn a spot on the most elite crews, like hotshot crews, rappel crews or smokejumper crews, you need to have a couple of fire seasons of experience and pass special training. The nature of the work done by these specialized crews imposes extra physical demands on their members, so the physical fitness requirements to gain a spot are higher. After all, these crews are called upon to travel around the country for remote initial attack efforts or for the toughest fire asments. Currently, the required level of experience and physical fitness is very similar for these three types of crews.
Similar mostly friendly rivalries exist even among the same type of crews at different bases. Historically there was debate about whether women had the required physical capabilities to belong on these crews. And while s are still low only about 10 percent of the permanent Forest Service wildland firefighting force is femalewomen have worked their way into permanent placements and management positions where they help orchestrate wildland firefighting efforts.
Lacey England flew in a helicopter eight times before she ever experienced landing in one. Rappel crews are an initial attack wildland firefighting crew. Rappelling, like its better-known and arguably more glamorous cousin, smokejumping, is just a fancier and faster way to get to a wildfire.
Once you hit the ground, the same arduous, dirty, work of fighting a wildland fire begins. But she prefers to work on the bigger fires that a hotshot crew gets to see. Molly Day is another former hotshot. Now a Fire Prevention Officer on the Stanislaus National Forest in California, Molly worked on the Stanislaus Hotshot Crew for ten years and her favorite part of the job was burnout operations— starting backfires to eliminate the fuels in between a fireline and the front of a fire. And Shelly Allen, Fire Management Officer on the Tahoe National Forest in California, has worked on both a rappel crew and a hotshot crew, but what she really wanted to do was follow the footsteps of her father right out the door of a DC-3 airplane and become a smokejumper.
It was the physical challenge. Hotshot crews are collectively required to have an extensive level of experience and training, and each member must maintain a high level of physical fitness. Hotshot crews started in southern California in the late s on the Cleveland and Angeles National Forests and were made up primarily of members of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Inseveral women were hired onto hotshot crews around the western U. Inthe Lolo Hotshots hired the first woman superintendent to run the crew. Six additional women have since achieved a Hotshot Superintendent title. Hotshot crews are often given arduous and dangerous asments and frequently respond to large, high-priority fires. I was hooked. Sara has been fighting wildland fire for 18 seasons. While some might call her short, Sara is a physical powerhouse. As Hung fire fighter for u girls woman with a small stature, she believes it is important to work out harder to exceed the minimum physical qualifications required by a hotshot crew member in order to silence both self and external criticism.
Hotshots are trained and equipped to hike to and work in Hung fire fighter for u girls, remote terrain for extended periods of time with little support. These crews are required to have the ability to rapidly construct handline, a fire control line constructed by clearing vegetation down to mineral soil to create a fuel break to slow or stop the advance of a fire.
Handline is built using hand tools versus a fireline which is built with a bulldozerincluding chainsaws, pulaskis, hoes and shovels. Hotshots move quickly, carrying their pound packs and tools faster than the average person can jog.
And she runs. Part of this is innate, but another part is her commitment to remaining in top physical shape for her career. While hotshots have a home base, they travel to asments throughout the U. According to Sara, firefighters, especially hotshot crew members, are escapists.
In the world of wildland fire, you are trained to speak up if you encounter a situation that you think might be unsafe. Her crew, without taking time to verify it, relied upon information relayed to them by a crew about on-the-ground conditions and safety measures. As the operation progressed, it became clear that her crew had been misdirected, and as a result Molly and a couple of other firefighters nearly ended up being caught by the flames.
It was a close enough call that she actually considered whether to deploy her fire shelter, which is one of the worst scenarios wildland firefighters can find themselves in and is almost always indicative that mistakes have been made. Vivid lore surrounds smokejumpers, who since have parachuted out of planes to reach the fires they fight.
Approximately Forest Service smokejumpers work today out of seven National Forest bases across the West. Smokejumpers are a key part of the initial attack force of wildland firefighters, because Hung fire fighter for u girls are one of the fastest resources available to reach a remote wildfire shortly after it is ignited or spotted and hopefully while it is still relatively small.
After parachuting to the safest, most proximate location to the fire, the jumpers use hand tools which are also dropped in via parachuteto begin controlling or extinguishing the blaze. They can provide a ground assessment and may order additional resources to best control the fire. Not only can the pack-out be a lengthy distance over dicey terrain, it requires rucking more than pounds of gear.
Other dangers are inherent as well.
A jumper must have the upper body strength and presence of mind to safely tie off, release from the chute and get to the ground. The worst injuries occur when jumpers are impaled on a limb during their descent or if they somehow crash on landing. Shelly Allen completed rookie training in Grangeville, Idaho inthen transferred to the McCall Smokejumper Base where she worked until And I got to see so many places of the country that most people will never see. This was despite it being known that there were several underweight men on other bases.
After filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint, supported by one of those underweight men, Deanne was allowed to try again, Hung fire fighter for u girls long as she weighed at least pounds on the first day of her appointment. This requirement has since been lowered to pounds, but the physical fitness standards, including a pound pack test, remain the same. Hung fire fighter for u girlsshe completed rookie training and jumped at the McCall, Idaho Smokejumper Base for five years.
She is amazing. She attributes this to both the women who came before her and to having the right mindset. Her jump partner that day was a woman and they had a woman spotter kicking them out the door. Another memorable moment for Shelly was an acknowledgement by a fellow jumper of her strength and accomplishment. Rappel crews have a similar initial attack mission that smokejumpers have, and face many of the same physical challenges, however rather than jumping from a plane, they get to the fire via helicopter.
Regardless of the standards, a crew member better be prepared to ruck a pluspound pack over rough terrain, because the helicopter that they dropped from rarely returns to pick them up. Like smokejumpers, rappellers must pack-out their gear to a road. Lacey England will start her fifth season with a permanent appointment on the Gallatin Rappel Crew this year, which guarantees her work for 13 pay periods. A permanent position also provides employees with the potential for lateral moves and opportunities for applying for advancement that might only be advertised to internal candidates.
She has begun training to be a helicopter manager and is qualified to be an incident commander on some fires. In a couple more seasons, she is planning to begin spotter training, another step-up in responsibility. Once a crew is dispatched to a fire, the spotter has the primary responsibility for doing rappel crew member safety checks, communicating with the pilot, determining the best site to rappel into, and leading the process to get crew members and then gear bags safely to the ground. But the summer of was one of her most memorable fire seasons. It was a meat grinder. But it was great.
Those tough experiences are the ones that seem to stand out since you pushed through and survived. But the fact that they have been successful on their respective crews does show that they all have mental and physical toughness in common. This grit unifies wildland firefighters regardless of their gender. So, what advice do these women have for those who are considering a job in wildland firefighting? They were hard on me, but at times they also knew better than me what I could do.
Molly also advises that you will build confidence over time. It was nerve wracking trying to prove herself. You have to prepare yourself for that and make a plan for how you are going to deal with it. The plan has to be one that works for you. We are all going to react differently and have our own lines that we draw in the sand.
There is a shift and people start listening. Sara also counsels, that above all else, maintain a sense of humor. While working on her undergraduate degree and prior to going to law school, Dayle spent five seasons working as a wildland firefighter for the U. Reach her at dwallien nationalforests. We've posted expanded profiles of the four women featured in this article on our blog.
Learn more below:. Drawn to Flame: Women Forged by Wildfire. Elite Crews, Dangerous Responsibilities Wildland firefighting is a complex endeavor, and the Forest Service plays a primary role in staffing and funding suppression efforts on public lands not just National Forests across the nation.
The Right Woman for the Job Lacey England flew in a helicopter eight times before she ever experienced landing in one. Photo by Kristen Honig After parachuting to the safest, most proximate location to the fire, the jumpers use hand tools which are also dropped in via parachuteto begin controlling or extinguishing the blaze.Hung fire fighter for u girls
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