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Female Forestry Service firefighter battles Montana wild land blaze

Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 10:55 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Jackson Forestry Service wildland firefighter is more than 2,000 miles from home, putting her life on the line to put out a Montana wildfire. She is one of just a few African Americans in that field who work 14 days straight saving forest land and lives.

“The fire will come right over you, and it’s a very dangerous situation,” said Alicia Thomas.

It’s not a position the Forestry Service Wild Land Fire Fighter thought she would be in when she began her career in 1999. She started with the USDA at Yellow Stone National Park. The Jackson wife and mother of three is currently fighting the Granite wildfire in Lolo, Montana. She works with chain saws, hoses, and on the fire line.

“I sleep outside in tents, on the ground, on the air mattress,” said Thomas. “I take showers in very small spaces. I’m out here for days sometimes. Sometimes I don’t get the shower”.

The South Central L.A. native travels the country battling forest fires. She is a part of a 55 member crew tackling the Granite wildfire, which has destroyed approximately 370,000 acres. Thomas is one of only a few African American wildland firefighters in the U.S. The 42-year-old encourages young people to take on the challenge.

“I tried it, and when I tried it out, I felt like I accomplished more than I’ve ever accomplished before,” said Thomas. “I accomplished things people told me I never could do.”

The Tuskeegee University graduate credits professors and admits it was a struggle earning double degrees in plant and soil science and environmental science.

“I got that chance, and I’ve never looked back,” added Thomas.

In early August, Thomas will be back home in time to begin work on her Ph.D. in fire ecology.

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