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When Sophia Huston started working as a hotshot — a specialized wildland firefighter with advanced technical training — she was 19 and didn’t know what she was getting herself into. She was physically fit and worked out regularly, but she wasn’t ready for preseason training, when the U.S. Forest Service, the agency she worked for, weeds out the unprepared with intense and physically demanding drills. “You’re going on hikes with full gear and chainsaws,” she said. “I weigh about 115 pounds and I’m carrying about upwards of 80 pounds of gear up a hill. I’m feeling the stress on my body and joints. I’m waking up in the middle of the night to eat food because I can’t get enough calories in.” 

Shortly after the training began, Huston got what would be her last menstrual cycle of the fire season. She’s been working in fire for six years now and hasn’t gotten her period for the past three years, which she speculates is due to lack of sleep, poor quality of food, and the physical strain of the job. She doesn’t know what the long-term repercussions of working in the fire service are on her health and fertility. “I just know it’s not good for you,” she said. “It’s not very... Read more

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