Wichita woman talks about fighting wildfires in the West

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WICHITA, Kansas – Jessica Peters knows how to hang with the big boys.

The fire science student at Hutchinson Community College just returned home after spending three long months of fighting some of largest wildfires in the West this summer.

Peters was one of 10 students from the school to go.

“I was scary. I got sent to Arizona. I was in Utah. I was also in Idaho.”

Peters was stationed at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

She was part of a 20 man engine crew that mostly protected archaeological sites.

It helped to see other women firefighters from time to time.

“Every time I got to go out on the assignment, there were at least three other females with a 20 man crew.”

At times, she found herself battling physical and mental challenges.

“It helped that I kept an open mind of what I was getting into so whether it was easy or hard I was ready for it.”

However, she wasn’t quite ready to hear about the 20 Granite Mountain Hot Shots who were killed.

“We took a few hours to just be with each other and thank God for being alive and for knowing our job.  That was a rough day for everyone out there.”

Through it all, Peters says the experience was more than she could ask for and has sparked her desire to save lives even more.

“We didn’t lose structures. We didn’t lose any personnel which was awesome.”

Peters will be a third semester student at Hutchinson Community College.

Her classes start Tuesday, and she will graduate in May.


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