Not all wildland firefighting gear works well for women

Shep Canyon Fire

Above: The Mt. Taylor Hotshots on the Shep Canyon Fire in South Dakota, 2011.

(Originally published December 27, 2017)

An article in the Los Angeles Times by Melissa Etehad describes how wildland firefighting gear designed for men can be a problem for female firefighters.

Below are some excerpts:


“Kelley Whitelens hiked a steep hill toward the backyard of a home on Coyote Road in Santa Barbara, one hand wiping the sweat from her face, the other pulling up her sagging pants.

“Whitelens is the only female firefighter in a 19-person team from South Dakota fighting the fierce Thomas fire…

[…]

“For the last six months, Hannah Key, a firefighter with the Sierra National Forest and a fire captain on the Thomas fire, has gathered hundreds of surveys from female firefighters across the nation about their body measurements, firefighter gear and improvements they hope to see.

“Her efforts stemmed from an email she sent during the Cascade fire in the spring of 2016 complaining about the lack of fire gear made for women. “Within the hour, I had three people from the company on the phone with me telling me that they’d like to make equipment for women,” Key said.

“Since then, Key has been gathering testimonials from female firefighters in California, Oregon, Texas, Florida and other states, gauging their needs and issues they’ve encountered in the field.

“The response has been overwhelming,” Key said. “There’s a market for this.”

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

2 thoughts on “Not all wildland firefighting gear works well for women”

  1. That’s what I tried to tell my Supers in the FS (Estacada R.D.) back in the early ’90’s. It was NOT well received. God knows how many sorebacks, both men and women, are still needlessly hurting because of years of abuse to their bodies by O/Head’s refusal to consider the long term effects of ill-fitting equipment!

  2. From what I’ve been told from my CrewBoss pant supplier, they reason they don’t if because of NFPA. I haven’t researched this myself, but my supplier told me NFPA had certain measurements for space in the crotch area. There are no standards to differentiate between males and females, so that would need to change first. But as the supply guy, I completely agree there needs to be different sizes for different people.

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