In the community

BLM fire camp preps women for wildfire line

VALE – Women interested in a career of fighting wild fires will have a chance to test the waters through an up-coming opportunity.

A Women in Wildland Fire boot camp will take place over two weekends in October, the Vale Bureau of Land Management announced last week.

“This is an opportunity for women to dip their toes in the world of fire,” said Cassandra Fleckenstein, manager for the Vale BLM dispatch center.

Last summer, Fleckenstein attended a similar camp hosted by the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico which inspired the idea for the upcoming camp, she said. Fleckenstein was unaware of any such camps hosted by the BLM.

Creating a more diverse workplace has been “a challenge” for the BLM across the country and camps like this one are “a good tool” for adding to gender diversity, Fleckenstein said.

“There is no fix-all or magical pill” to getting more women in wildland fire fighting, she said.

“Even if only two women get jobs out of this camp, it will be two more than before,” said Fleckenstein.

Fleckenstein said that she has received “lots of feedback” about the boot camp so far, with women reaching out from around the state, Montana and the Dakotas.

The workshop will be held near Juntura on Oct. 19-21 and Oct. 26-28. 

The boot camp will consist of basic wildland fire fighter training, including live fire exercises and the opportunity to work with tools. Participants will be paid $12.74 per hour during the training and training materials, meals, and personal protective equipment will be provided.

The idea of the training is to “give as much real-life experience as we can give [participants] so they can make real life decisions on if that’s something they want to do or not,” said Fleckenstein.

Participants will have completed entry-level training requirements for seasonal employment with federal agencies and private contractors, according to the press release. Additionally, those who successfully complete the training will be certified for wildland fire fighting and be eligible to work during the 2019 re season as temporary seasonal employees or on-call wildland fire fighters.

To apply for the program, those interested must complete an application and send it in to Fleckenstein by Sept. 14. The selections for program participants will be made by Sept. 21. Those selected will need is “a pillow, sleeping bag, all-terrain shoes and willingness to learn,” according to the application.

For Fleckenstein, this boot camp is about “giving back to community in the best way that I know how – by protecting local values,” she said. There will be “women coming in to help from across the Northwest and the Great Basin,” with three to four instructors, Fleckenstein said.

Part of the boot camp is “inviting women to tell their stories about the benefits of having a career like this,” said Fleckenstein. She said that she’s hoping to “keep the group small” with about 20 to 25 participants in order “to give them attention.”

“For me, being a woman of fire, I want to give back,” she said. “I want to help other women.”

The complete outreach notice and application can be requested by calling 541-473-6297 or emailing [email protected]. For more information, contact Cassandra Fleckenstein at 541-473-6295.