(WGHP) — Raging wildfires pose a dangerous threat to people and property. Two Piedmont women have battled some of the toughest conditions on the West Coast.
“With firefighting, fear is a factor,” North Carolina Service Forester Dakota Paris said. “The day you stop becoming scared of fire is the day you need to stop.”
Paris never underestimates what she’s up against.
She had her first dispatch on a wildfire out west in 2011.
“I’ve gone out pretty much every year since that first dispatch, and I went out this year as well,” she said.
Paris was most recently in California on the Antelope Fire.
Assistant County Ranger Katie Stovall, based in Randolph County, was in California last year battling the July Complex Fires.
“There’s quite a bit of adrenaline that goes in with it. You’re going to a new place. You’re seeing new people. You’re getting into something that you’ve never experienced before. Although we’re trained to do what we do, every situation and every scenario is very, very different,” Stovall said.
Both women are based out of District Ten for the North Carolina Forest Service, which includes multiple counties across the Piedmont Triad.
They say the training they receive at home prepares them to lead wherever they are called.
They appreciate seeing more women enter the Forest Service. Ultimately, they don’t want to be looked at differently.
“To me, it’s important to be a woman in the industry, but at the same time, it’s also important to be able to be on equal ground with my peers,” Paris said.
“I think a lot of it has to do with your ability, and that’s very important to me. I don’t care who’s working with me whether they’re a man or a woman. What’s very important to me is that they have the qualifications that they can protect my life if I need it,” Stovall said.
Stovall and Paris have several responsibilities outside of fighting wildfires including land and water conservation, monitoring the impact of insects on trees and education.