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“They had it harder than we do for sure.” But firefighting is still a men’s club, and for many women in the trenches, little has changed.Women make up 39 percent of the Forest Service’s workforce, but hold just 11 percent of permanent wildfire jobs. military has done a better job of recruiting and retaining women. Women tend to be primary caregivers, so having kids can derail a career—most jobs don’t require you to find childcare for weeks on end while you’re dispatched all over the country.“It’s systemic and it’s institutional.” The latest complaint is on its way to becoming the third gender-based class-action lawsuit against the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region in 30 years.The first was resolved in 1981 with a “consent decree”—a settlement in which neither party admits fault.
(Like many assaulted women, though, she never followed up with the police.) Donnelly also helped Dabney realize that her experience was part of a pattern. ” Minutes later, 25-year-old Kate Lacey—a senior firefighter with the Sandia Helitack Crew—walked through what appeared to be a herd of giant orange and green caterpillars. This was a training exercise and there was no blaze in sight, but for the women facedown in the dirt, sweating and panting, the heat—and the pressure—were real. And all dreamt of becoming like Lacey, on track to get a coveted permanent position on a helicopter crew. “It was kind of scary,” admitted 24-year-old Tatiana Espinoza. You can’t see anything under there.” The simulation was the first of many trials the recruits were to face. ” Then Lacey gave the all-clear and the women emerged, strands of hair matted to their dirt-smudged cheeks.In other agencies that fight fire—the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U. Fish and Wildlife Service—the figure is as low as 6 percent. And many women firefighters find themselves in places where they’re the only females for miles.Even with a supportive crew, the macho culture can make it hard to stick around long enough to ascend the ladder—becoming a type 1 incident commander, a position equivalent to a one-star general, for example, takes longer than becoming a doctor. But for some, the problems manifest in much darker ways.