The Moore Charitable Foundation and founder Louis Bacon are focused on forest health nationally and the advancement of prescribed burning as a critical management strategy, in partnership with experts in the field such as The Nature Conservancy and Wilderness Workshop. Like all areas of conservation, the future of fire practice could benefit from a more diversified workforce – including women in the mix as well.
We are delighted to promote a great blog post published via Fire Adapted Communities by Lenya N. Quinn-Davidson, Director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, about a prescribed fire training exchange (TREX) in northwestern California, hosted by the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council. This year’s theme: Women in Fire. Read on.
As I lay awake last week thinking about my Tuesday blog post and what science topic I should delve into this month, I naturally found myself thinking about women in fire. I wondered about the research that’s been done on this topic, and how it relates to what we’re trying to do here in late October. What are the challenges that women face in fire? Is it an issue of recruitment and numbers, or is it something more substantive—more cultural?
Perhaps tellingly, there hasn’t been much research on this topic. Sarah McCaffrey pointed me toward some work in Australia, where Christine Eriksen and others have looked at rural bushfire management in the context of gender. They’ve found key differences in the way men and women perceive, prepare for, and respond to bushfires—differences that often leave women ill-prepared for fire or reliant on men for protection. Though this is a different social and political setting than we’re immersed in here, there was one recurring theme in Eriksen’s work that resonated with the conversations I’ve been having: the notion that fire management is “men’s business,” even when women are involved. That same underlying attitude has recently been called out here in the U.S. An article in High Country News focused on the harassment and sexism that is still rampant in the world of wildland firefighting, and that story mostly highlighted the overt abuse that’s taking place—not the more subtle forms of misogyny that are even more widespread but harder to pinpoint and disrupt.
In approaching the WTREX, our team is interested in creating a space where women and men can discuss and understand these issues, and work together to build a more inclusive, supportive culture in fire. We feel that today’s fire problems are so complex that we need to elevate diversity in intellect, talent and perspective in order to solve them, and that approach will necessarily involve leadership from women.
The WTREX could not be more timely: just in the last few days, Shawna Legarza was appointed the new national director of fire and aviation management for the USDA Forest Service, and another woman, Patty Grantham, will take her place as the director of fire and aviation for the Pacific Southwest Region. On top of that, we’re in an election year with the first female presidential candidate of a major political party. The time is ripe to bring 40 fire practitioners together in northern California to restore fire to the landscape, build new networks and partnerships, and work toward a more equitable, inclusive, and effective fire management culture. (And I think we should probably incorporate some research, too—there’s clearly a need!)
To learn more about WTREX or to apply, visithttp://www.norcalrxfirecouncil.org/wtrex-2016.html. Contact Lenya at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
Eriksen, C., Gill, N. and Head, L., 2010. The gendered dimensions of bushfire in changing rural landscapes in Australia. Journal of Rural Studies, 26(4), pp.332-342.
Eriksen, C., 2014. Gendered risk engagement: challenging the embedded vulnerability, social norms and power relations in conventional Australian bushfire education. Geographical Research, 52(1), pp.23-33.