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Ponderosa & Piñatas

A women's fire crew leader uses a chainsaw to mitigate wildfire fuels

Women's Fire Crew leaders hit the road with expectations up in the air and imaginations running wild. We were welcomed to the Sioux Ranger District by cows, deer, and antelope crossings. The employees of the Ranger station greeted us warmly into their tiny, dreamy community. The town of Camp Crook featured beautiful landscape vistas, weather prone to mood swings, and a work site that had previously been underwater. Environmentalists, geologists, firefighters, and historians alike all found themselves fascinated with the landscape.


Tasked with a thinning project to reduce fuels in high-risk fire area, our four leads headed out into the Ponderosa armed with saws, axes, and a radio. From day one, the focus was on steady, thoughtful, safe work. Time was dedicated to discussing and mitigating the prevailing hazards of gusty wind, snow, and ice since most of the work was on steep slippery slopes. Everyone was happy to share their wins of the day - a face cut so perfect the project partner said even he couldn't do better, a complex hazard tree cut down with thoughtful care, a new type of back cut tried out with success, and more. But even more important was everyone sharing the unexpected. A cut plan that went sideways. Bars getting pinched. And re-pinched. And unstuck just to get pinched again on the next tree because the wind suddenly shifted. Our crew learned together, with laughter, smiles, and a staunch determination to grow as sawyers. We got a lot over the last 8 days, but the biggest accomplishment was seeing everyone grow better, smarter, and more together as a team.

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