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Texas event brings careers in wildland firefighting to young women

The Sisters in Fire program allows young women to learn about wildland firefighting and test their skills in a prescribed burn


Texas A&M Forest Service

Odessa American

PALO PINTO, Texas — Texas A&M Forest Service hosted the third annual Sisters in Fire event Sept. 30 at Worth Ranch, a Longhorn Council BSA property. Thirty-five young women between the ages of 13 and 18 from 22 Texas counties and one Oklahoma county attended the event.

“The Sisters in Fire program was created to introduce young women to wildland firefighting and natural resource careers,” Emily Mitchell, Sisters in Fire Incident Commander, said in a news release. “This year we had women from across the state of Texas and one from Kansas who are introducing their professions and passions to the young women of Texas.”

Participants were split into squads, or teams, for the day and rotated through four stations. Each station introduced them to various topics and skills relating to the wildland firefighting profession, including how to suppress wildfires with fire engines, bulldozers, chainsaws and hand tools. They also learned leadership and communication skills that are critical for wildland firefighting crews, the release said.

“My favorite part of the day was meeting new people and getting to take on a leadership role,” said Emma, Sisters in Fire participant.

At this year’s event, a Fire Boss from Dauntless Air, an amphibious aircraft frequently used on Texas wildfires, made two water drops, helping demonstrate the coordination needed between aerial firefighting resources and ground personnel during a wildfire incident.

“The Fire Boss (AT-802F) aircraft is an essential part of our air operations during wildfire season,” said Cassidy Ince, Texas A&M Forest Service Unmanned Aircraft System Program Coordinator and Sisters in Fire squad boss, in the release. “This was a great opportunity for our participants to witness this incredible aircraft and skilled pilot perform a water drop.”

Participants put everything they learned to the test during the final event of the day, a prescribed fire demonstration. While the instructors burned a small area of grass, the young women answered questions and applied what they learned to a real-world scenario.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, women account for a small percentage of career firefighters, including 5% of all career firefighters, 11% of volunteer fire service and 12% of federal wildland firefighters.

“Our program introduces young women to a variety of career opportunities associated with wildland firefighting that some may have not even realized were available to them,” said Mitchell. “It also provides our leadership team opportunities to network, build relationships with other women and develop personally through training opportunities.”

The Sisters in Fire event was hosted in cooperation with Texas A&M Forest Service, USDA Forest Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, Texas Intrastate Fire Mutual Aid System, University of Texas LBJ Wildflower Center, and Kansas Forest Service

“Having all of these agencies here shows that we are all doing similar things, and we all have a role to fill with wildfire and land management,” said Ashley Samberson, United States Fish & Wildlife Service, in the release. We want to support each other during wildfire suppression and outside of wildfires on programs like this and others.”

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