IN 1988, BEQUI LIVINGSTON became the first woman ever recruited by the New Mexico-based Smokey Bear Hotshots for its elite wildland firefighting crew. It had taken Livingston nine years to prove herself in the then-male dominated industry.
Standing 4’10” and 98 pounds, Livingston was perceived to be at a strength disadvantage. Some of the physical demands include hiking with heavy equipment and constructing firebreaks with shovels, axes, and chainsaws—for up to 16 hours straight. Livingston’s solution was to be doubly strong. During the off season, she worked as a personal trainer, and kept her strength and endurance high by running and weight training. Every year, Livingston successfully completed the U.S. Forest Service’s work capacity test—hiking three miles in less than 45 minutes while wearing a 45-pound weighted vest—just to show she could.
After the Hotshots, Livingston went on to become the region’s Fire Operations Health and Safety Specialist. In 2012, she was instrumental in launching the five-day Women in Wildland Fire Boot Camp to better prepare women for the physical demands of the job. “Fire’s not prejudiced,” Livingston says. “It doesn’t matter how tall you are, how short you are, how much you weigh, what gender you are, what age. You just need to be able to do the job.”