Women In Fire Fighting

Submitted by Iris Estes, Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests

Across the nation, women hold more than 6,500 career firefighting positions. We have several of those special women and one works on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, Springerville Ranger District --Christina Douglas, a Forestry Technician in fire on E- 61, a Type 3 engine.

As a young child, Douglas developed an interest in fire; she was curious about the dynamics of how and why fire did what it did. In 2006, she took college classes to become a structural firefighter. After completion and doing some “ride-a-longs,” she felt that she wanted to experience different fire opportunities.

She heard about the Forest Service wildland firefighting program and wanted to give it a try. In 2007, Douglas took the basic wildland fire training courses required of all wildland firefighters. In 2008, she began working on the Coconino National Forest, Peaks Ranger District on an engine. Douglas says “I remember being part of an initial response crew and driving to my first 20 plus acre fire, seeing the smoke in the distance and feeling the rush of excitement. I was hooked and have been ever since.”

Douglas says “My first two-week assignment was also my most memorable. It was on the Klamath National Forest in Northern California on the Siskiyou Complex Fire, 2008.” On this assignment, she had an opportunity to fill in on the Globe Hotshot crew. Douglas said, “This assignment opened the door for my career.”

 During this assignment, she questioned her ability to keep up with the “guys” and wondered if she was strong enough to do the job. Douglas said, “I knew I wanted it but was unsure if I could do it.” She was exhausted, sick, and ended up getting poison oak. It was also the worst hiking experience she has ever had. Douglas recounts, “The hike in was steep, but the hike out was even steeper. In some spots it was so steep that we used the hose that was put in to help pull ourselves up.” The crew had “words of encouragement” that helped motivate her through the hike out.  Towards the end of the assignment, she was assigned as a lookout. As a lookout, she camped out for three days, flew in a helicopter, had deer come into camp at night, and experienced meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) for the first time. Douglas remembers “It was a nice break and another great experience.”

Weeks after coming home from this assignment she found out she was 11 weeks pregnant with her son, this helped explain why she had felt so exhausted and sick. Douglas said, “This gave me, even more, drive to continue with this career.”



Christina Douglas in Fire Resistant Clothing