GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.
The S2-12 chainsaw is the right tool to mitigate fire fuels, and the women of the Western Colorado Conservation Corps are trained to use them. But these women aren’t just fighting fires, they’re breaking barriers. Crew leader, Olivia Woosley says, “The fire world is very male dominated and I think it’s just a great opportunity to partner with the BLM and get more women into the program.”
The Western Colorado Conservation Corps has partnered with the Bureau of Land Management for the last three years to train women fire crews to do two things: reduce the ability for fire to burn, or fight the fire where it stands. Upper Colorado River Fire mitigation specialist, Patrick Kieran says, “It’s a 40 hour class that is fairly rigorous, fairly involved, and then when you come out of that you’re a qualified, certified, federal firefighter.”
He says fire season starts in June, but this year we’re already under drought stress and under the average snowpack. “The hydrologic cycle has been impacted, the soil moisture has been impacted, the actual vegetation has been impacted,” said Kieran.
But, Olivia’s already fought fires when South Dakota was burning and knows what it takes. “Definitely dedication and a willingness to pretty much subject your body to whatever comes at you,” said Woosley.
To be a member of the women’s wild land firefighting crew you have to be brave like Emily, but you also have to know how to operate a chainsaw. Emily warns, “Hot saw!” Then starts a chainsaw.
And, you have to know how to work on the chainsaw. “When we get back here we really dig deep inside the saws and make sure they’re cleaned, and sharp, and ready to go for our next project,” said Woosley. “It’s super fulfilling and rewarding, and I am just really appreciative that this program even exists,” Woosley said.
For more information on how you can join, train, and become a woman wild land fire crew member, click here.