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Summers of Fire by Linda Strada

January 21, 2020

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I received Summers of Fire as a free giveaway so I was pleased to have the time to read it over the Christmas holiday. It’s a long memoir, so it took me some weeks to read it, but I found it so interesting and absorbing I enjoyed taking my time with it.

Set in the 70s at a time when women employed as forest firefighters was almost unheard of, Linda Strada showed great determination to achieve her dreams against tremendous odds. Despite their apparently friendly attitude, most of her fellow firefighters didn’t feel that women should be there at all and it was only her persistence and the support of one or two seniors that ensured she got the jobs. Her memoir shows how entrenched discrimination could and maybe still can be, especially in careers that are typically considered to be men’s. However, she faced it all with tremendous strength of character, and I greatly admired her refusal to be cowed.

What I hadn’t appreciated was that forest firefighters do not fight fires all year round; it is a seasonal problem after all, and there are many other activities with which they are involved such as forest management, clearing and fire prevention. In fact, they are both firefighters and conservationists.

In terms of the labour required, Linda Strada did everything she was asked with a will and stoicism even some of her male colleagues didn’t have. When work was in short supply in her home state, she upped sticks and went where she found it, even if that meant going to Alaska. Finding out about a forest firefighter’s life didn’t only mean the excitement and adrenaline rush of facing massive and terrifying flames; it also meant learning how to prevent them as well.

However, one of the by products of her ‘can do’ attitude to life was the knowledge she gained about native and desert plants, a knowledge that she employs in her own business today. I must say I learned so much from reading this book, and this was what I enjoyed about it most.

The story is also interwoven with quite personal accounts of the author’s love life during this period, and relationships sometimes got complicated when these were with colleagues. One girl among so many men resulted in challenges, especially when that girl was young, pretty and feisty!

Altogether, I found this a great read on many levels and I would recommend it to anyone interested in memoirs about a different kind of life. It certainly opened my eyes!

The Amazon link to the book is here

 

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