I'm a wildland firefighter in Colorado who's been battling blazes and scrambling to save homes. It's hard to have a social life.
Chelsea Puzzo is a 31-year-old firefighter based in Salt Lake City, Utah who works fighting wildfires mainly in Colorado.
To become a firefighter, Puzzo had to pass multiple safety exams as well as a physical test which included walking for three miles in less than 45 minutes while wearing a 60-pound pack.
Puzzo and her team spend two weeks at a time camping outside near their firefighting assignment. Besides putting out active fires, they survey structures nearby, clear debris, and dig trenches to prevent a fire's spread.
As one of few female firefighters in her area, Puzzo says she often feels pressure to work harder so she's not perceived as the weak link because of her gender.
Here's what her job is like, as told to freelance writer Justin Higginbottom.
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Around noon one day in mid-October, about a week after my last shift, I got the call again. I was still tired, and definitely still bruised, but grateful and ready to hit the line again.
I'm a wildland firefighter and this is my first year working in the field. I work for a contractor that takes requests whenever full-time firefighters need extra bodies. In 2020 so far, that's been a lot. I'm about to head to Colorado again to help battle the Cameron Peak fire — one of the largest in state history.
I'm also one of the few women you might see there.
Although this is my first season making it to a fire, I started my training with this contractor two years ago in Utah where I live. First, I had to pass an exam about the various regulations and safety protocols. I also had to pass a physical test including walking for three miles in less than 45 minutes while wearing a 60-pound pack. The pack wasn't quite designed for a woman's chest so I was at a disadvantage. But I made it in 37 minutes.
As a female firefighter I think I tend to work harder because I don't want to be the weak link.