News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Girls attend Junior Firefighter camp

The area surrounding Scout Lake was abuzz with girl power last Saturday as 34 girls, ages 7–14, learned and practiced fire safety and outdoor skills they need for adventuring outside.

The U.S. Forest Service and SheJumps Wild Skills co-sponsored the Junior Firefighter day camp combining the skills and expertise of their organizations with mentoring provided by female members of the Forest Service (four from Sisters Ranger District) and SheJumps.

According to the program's curriculum, the day camp "is meant to be an experience the girls will remember, one that will spark a lifetime of passion and respect for the outdoors and our natural resources."

The Forest Service's goal is to introduce young girls to strong women who work in outdoor careers usually dominated by men, and mimic some of the things wildland firefighters do on a fire. A majority of the USFS personnel at the camp came from Central Oregon Forest Service districts, with a few from the Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Baker, and the Oregon Department of Forestry.

This day camp started five years ago in the Columbia Gorge, was interrupted by COVID, and is currently being sponsored by the Sisters Ranger District. A larger program, Women in Wildfire Boot Camp, is offered annually all over the United States. The Oregon SheJumps also offers a Central Oregon Junior Ski Patrol program at Hoodoo.

The Junior Firefighting day camp is structured to resemble a simplified wildfire assignment. The girls are divided in similar age groups to make "crews," each with a Forest Service crew boss and a SheJumps assistant. They all attend a morning briefing where they learn vital information for the day from the Incident Commander and safety information from the SheJumps Safety Officer.

Each camper receives an Incident Action Plan (IAP) that contains most of the information from the morning briefing and they can take notes in it as needed. The IAP is very realistic with all the appropriate terms used, like incident objective and name, division assignment, operational day and period (using 24-hour time), operational personnel, objectives, and work assignments. They are introduced to the firefighter's line gear and items considered essential to carry as a wildland firefighter.

In all materials there are links to websites, podcasts, Instagram #s, and QR codes. The SheJumps journal is enticingly illustrated to invite coloring, and packed with information to prepare women and girls for participation in outdoor activities. The Forest Service brought a variety of trucks to camp for the girls to explore.

Everyone learns the 10 essentials to be packed whenever heading out into the wild for adventures. Navigation: maps and compass, sun protection: sunglasses and sunscreen, insulation: extra clothing, illumination: headlamp/flashlight, first aid supplies, fire: waterproof matches/lighter/candle, repair kit and tools, nutrition: extra food, hydration: extra water, and emergency shelter: tent/plastic tube/garbage bag.

The rest of the day is spent rotating through four different "divisions" or stations and experiencing related hands-on exercises.

• Emergencies – first aid skills and other emergency procedures.

• Navigation – topographic maps (reading and creating) and compass skills.

• Fire science and firefighting resources – fire and fire behavior triangles, fire tools, equipment, and jobs.

• Teamwork and communication – fire leadership, team building, respectful and clear communication.

The logo for SheJumps is a "girafficorn." The giraffe sticks her neck out to jump into adventurous activities and has the horn of a unicorn signifying the magical experiences that await in nature.

Carissa, a USFS fire prevention technician from Hood River, has volunteered for two years at the day camp because, "I love hanging out with kids." She also wants to "help girls see unrecognized opportunities and be a role model."

The campers were enthusiastic about their camp experience and shared some of what they learned:

"It was really fun!"

"We learned that good leadership is really important. Not listening to your leader is bad."

"It's really important to trust your teammates."

For information about future camp, contact SheJumps.org and Sisters Ranger District at 541-549-7700.

 

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