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Job fair aims to bolster ranks of women fighting wildland fires

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Mar 19, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-19 19:36:46-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- If you look at the number of people who fight wildfires in Utah, you might think it's an all men's club—but the U.S. Forest Service says women represent more than 10 percent of wildland firefighters, and they are taking steps to reach out to women interested in such a career.

Megan Saylors has been a wildland firefighter for about 14 years, and Thursday she was trying to recruit other women to the front lines of fighting fires. There is a shortage of women in wildland firefighting, and the U.S. Forest Service hosted a job fair at REI in Salt Lake City with an aim to change that.

New hires would be on-standby, ready to travel all over the country to battle wildfires.

“It’s a job that can be fun and exciting,” Saylors said. “It’s rewarding, it's challenging.”

Applicants must be 18 years old and in good physical shape, and they must pass basic wildland fire training. Starting pay is $15.64 an hour.

Mike Byers, a supervisor for the US Forest Service, said they teach applicants what they need to know.

“[At] entry-level, you don't need to have anything necessarily, we provide all the training,” he said.

Saylors said fire fighting can seem intimidating, but she said it doesn’t have to be a scary prospect.

“You see the fire on television, and that's the only exposure folks get--and there's a lot more to it,” she said.

Saylors said fire fighting is a career where women can thrive.

“It’s a job a lot of people can do,” she said. “Surprisingly, despite people thinking it’s hard and difficult, it’s definitely available and viable career options."