In 1974, in the shadow of the Olympics, Hoodsport Ranger District hires four women to their forest fire crew in an experiment few expect to succeed.
Susan is failing a college without grades and burdened by secrets she wishes she didn’t know. Asked to help find tough chicks for the fire crew, she’s determined to be one, spurred by the lure of fire, forest and man-sized pay. FireGrrl is her harrowing, funny, awkward and poetic account.
A serial killer targeting nice girls and a friend’s suicide attempt raise the stakes. Susan feels raw and out of control much like Pandora, a dog who hides in a box and makes a mess every time she comes out.
Susan must find her place amid the jostle of tribe and race, locals and outsiders, and prove that women can do the job. She struggles to keep up, master tools and fire science, and sort out spitting, peeing in the woods, and who buys the beer.
The dangers of wildfire demand cohesion but hostilities simmer and it’s hard to know who’ll cover Susan’s back and who’d just as soon stab it. With women kept apart as weak links in the chain, Susan forms an uneasy alliance with the one woman she most distrusts, an alliance that saves her when a thousand man fire camp reels from the presence of women. Finally, when a controlled burn explodes, it is Susan that must hold the line.
The narrative immerses readers in the deceptively simple language of the senses. The elements, trees and all manner of bees are characters in their own right and Susan is often more at ease with them than with people.
Not only a woman’s story, FireGrrl examines a workingman’s world and the forest industry’s impact on the communities that rely on it.