The first weekend of the first ever Women in Wildland Fire Boot Camp exceeded the expectations of boot camp organizer, Bequi Livingston.
“The first session of our boot camp programs were beyond incredible and certainly one of the highlights of my career. I think that we have certainly developed a model for future use that is very successful and provides so much ownership at the field level,” Livingston said.
The boot camp idea was developed to attract the next generation of wildland fire fighters and provide a supportive and educational environment.
Due to the seasonal nature of many of the responsibilities of the Forest Service, such as wildfire fighting and seasonal recreation programs, the agency hires many temporary workers. Annually, the Forest Service and its conservation partners hire approximately 15,000 young adults for summer positions.
Two sessions of the boot camp were held concurrently in Phoenix, Ariz., and Albuquerque, N.M., over two consecutive weekends in March.
Although women were targeted for the boot camp, anyone interested in the program was encouraged to apply. Organizers conducted an extensive outreach effort throughout Arizona and New Mexico aiming for a diversified group of participants.
The program provided a unique opportunity for participants. They learned firsthand about the expectations and challenges faced by wildland firefighters.
Instructors covered a range of topics which included physical conditioning, the mental aptitude required for the job, along with the required training in such subject areas as: the Incident Command System, wildland fire behavior and, of course, basic wildland firefighting.
Linda Wadleigh, deputy for the program said she was energized by the group of women at the Phoenix session. “The instructors had to be on their toes, answering all their questions and giving them the best possible training we could. Working with rookie firefighters made me up my game too.”
As one class member said, “Hey, girls can do this? Then so can I.”