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Building networks of women in fire in Latin America

ARIZONA — Last week, 22 women from seven Latin American countries gathered in Tucson, Arizona, for a workshop promoting leadership of women in fire management. The workshop provided an opportunity and space for these women, who are involved in wildfire management, to receive training, meet other women from their region who work in fire and learn from the experience of women in the Forest Service. The event was organized by the International Programs office with funding from and in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development. Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management staff delivered presentations and facilitated discussions.

A variety of training topics were covered during the week, including incident command system, incident stress management, fire prevention, prescribed burns and leadership development. The group visited the Tucson Interagency Dispatch Center as well as a recently burned site on Coronado National Forest for hands-on learning. Discussion sessions encouraged the women to share challenges and opportunities they face as fire practitioners and leaders.

Renee Jack, fire operations supervisor on the Deschutes National Forest and a presenter in Tucson, recognizes the value of this type of exchange. “I have been mentored and trained [through international details] since 2008 and continue to learn from them every time. I carry this knowledge back to the U.S. with me and use these skills in my job at my home unit and on incidents.”

This event is part of an ongoing program designed to build a network of women who participate in fire management in Latin America. It built on two events held in 2017. In December 2017, Forest Service personnel led a fireline leadership course in Mexico for participants from Mexico, Honduras and Dominican Republic. The course was offered as a recommended follow-up activity to the first Latin American Women in Fire event held in Tucson in February 2017.

The International Programs office supports activities that strengthen fire management capacity in various Latin American countries. There are long-term programs in Mexico and Brazil, where the Forest Service has cooperated in fire management for over 25 years.

Photo: Women in safety gear use McLeod tool, Pulaski axe and other tools to clear brush and simulate building a fire line in forest.
Mt. Lemmon, Coronado National Forest. Participants from Latin America practice using tools to build a firebreak during a fire simulation exercise as part of a workshop promoting leadership of women in fire management. Forest Service photo by Alexandra Zamecnik.
Photo: Women in safety gear stand in circle as one member of the group speaks.
Renee Jack, fire operations supervisor on the Deschutes National Forest, and participants conduct an After Action Review following a fire response leadership simulation on Mt. Lemmon on the Coronado National Forest.