Not all wildland firefighting gear works well for women

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.”