Cassandra Fleckenstein is a wildland firefighter, instructor, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officer in Vale, Oregon. Fleckenstein’s job covers a lot of ground, from responding to dispatch fire calls to training all-women firefighting recruits. It’s demanding, but rewarding work.
Fleckenstein started out in a dispatch center while in high school to earn money for college. She eventually landed a job on an engine crew, but by the time she finished school, Fleckenstein had lost interest in her English degree. She decided to pursue a career in firefighting instead.
In 2017, Fleckenstein began teaching at a wildfire boot camp for women in New Mexico. Inspired, she started a first-of-its-kind program to recruit women for BLM in the Pacific Northwest. “I think one of the toughest things is when you see a wildland firefighter in a movie or on TV. They’re always men.” Fleckenstein wants to show women that firefighting is a real option for them. The program brings up to 30 women from across the country to Vale, giving potential recruits the skills and information needed to decide if it’s the right fit.
It’s hard work, to be sure. Firefighters carry heavy gear, and live far from home during fire season, away from family and friends. But Fleckenstein has learned to appreciate the remoteness as an outdoor enthusiast and loves working with her team.
From June, all the way through September, at the max–you’re not at home… and you’re missing birthdays and holidays and a bunch of other stuff, and it becomes a toll on the family that you left behind.
Now go in-depth with Cassandra in an extended Q & A session!
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