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Student Spends Summer Firefighting and Clerking

September 08, 2020

  • Jacqueline O’Keefe firefighter
Jacqueline O’Keefe (3L), shared with us her experience as a firefighter, and clerking this summer for a federal judge:
“The 2020 season was my sixth season fighting fire. I started in 2014 on a contract fire engine company owned by my friend’s dad. Contract fire engines and crews get called by the state, tribal, or federal government when there are not enough government resources to respond to a fire. It took some getting used to. On my first fire, of the 25 person ‘strike team’, I was the youngest, least experienced, and the only woman. You also generally work 16-hour shifts for two weeks straight then get two days off and go right back out.
This summer, the first contract engine company I worked for contacted me and asked if I would be willing to go out on fires. Last summer I desperately missed fighting fire – missed the excitement, camaraderie, spending all day outside – so I happily agreed. In mid-August, I was called to the P515 fire on the Warm Springs Reservation. Because of school starting, I was only able to be there for 8 days and not the typical 2 weeks. It felt great to dig in the dirt, laugh with coworkers, and watch how the land responded to fire – all the things I have always loved about fighting fire.
Fighting fire has made my environmental education (in college environmental science, and now environmental law) feel grounded in something tangible. It can be completely heartbreaking, the toll it takes on both the land and animals, as well as the people around it, but I’m also often struck by how powerful a tool “good” fire can be and how so much of the West’s ecosystem is adapted to it.
This summer, I spent 12 weeks clerking for Judge Ann Aiken, who is a U.S. District Court judge for the District of Oregon. I had a great experience and was able to help draft and finalize two opinions, a pre-hearing memo, and telephonically attend hearings. Judge Aiken and her law clerk expected high quality work and dedication—qualities that I believe fighting fire helped to teach me.”
Read the full story here.
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