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Los Padres National Forest hosts camp for aspiring female firefighters

The Los Padres National Forest is working to break barriers for women who want to fight fires in California’s forests.

Los Padres held its third consecutive Women in Wildfire boot camp at Circle V Ranch, near Lake Cachuma.

The women spent a week at the camp in a classroom setting and out in the field.

The hands-on approach gives them exposure to the rigors of the job and helps them navigate the application process.

Participation in the camp does not guarantee employment.

Women hold just 13 percent of wildland fire positions in the U.S. Forest Service California region, according to Andrew Madsen, spokesperson for Los Padres National Forest.

There were 63 graduates from three training camps at Los Padres. About one-third of graduates from the first two camps secured seasonal jobs last summer, according to Madsen.

This year’s 25 graduates can apply for seasonal jobs in the spring.

The Los Padres camp may serve as a model for future boot camps for women across the state and the country.

“We have nine other forests from California here to see what type of program we put together and how we are running it,” said Battalion Chief Jay Enns, of the Los Padres National Forest. “The success that we have had has spread. They are trying to mimic on their forest what we’ve created here.”

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