Her mother, Captain Bonnie Rogers, was the first female firefighter in her department in 2010 and served as her inspiration.
Earlier this month, Katie Jo Benitz's longtime wish came true when her mother, also a firefighter, unexpectedly joined in while the team was battling a neighboring wildfire. Her mother, Captain Bonnie Rogers, the first female firefighter in her department in 2010, served as her inspiration for entering the traditionally male-dominated job. "Everything my mom has done for us, as a single mother with 3 kids, going through this field and progressing so well so far in her career, has been so inspiring," Katie told Good Morning America. "I thought it was one of the coolest things. It made me also want to be that inspiration for other girls interested in male-dominated fields, just like she has been for me."
Bonnie says she was not surprised by her daughter's choice to enter the profession as she always seemed interested in the field. When Katie was 3 or 4 years old, she used to hold flashcards and explain concepts to Bonnie while she studied for paramedic school, the mother said.
When Katie was asked to assist in putting out the Cow Canyon wildfire next to the BBQ Flats in Selah, Washington, the mother-daughter team's fieldwork ultimately came into contact for the first time in August. The two had never before crossed paths, which was not unusual given that they are both stationed about 90 minutes apart. "I knew it was kind of likely … In this particular instance, she was 20 miles away from me when the fire started, so my initial thought was that she was just going to come, stop and say hi," Katie said.
Katie called it "pretty exciting" and a "rare occurrence" that they crossed paths at the scene of the fire. As a captain, her mother could have been doing anything practically anywhere in the state, she shared. "This particular day, I was working as a safety officer and was assigned to a different fire," Bonnie explained. "While in training, I was asked to go over to Cow Canyon, and there were a lot of people working [due to the magnitude of the fire], so I didn't think I would run into Katie, especially after being given this assignment late in the day."
Bonnie's duty that day as a safety officer included monitoring the various crews working at the site. She heard a laugh during those inspections that she immediately recognized as her daughter's. The two exchanged greetings before stopping to snap a picture, which Katie subsequently shared on social media. "I am super fortunate to be able to do my job. I am even more lucky to have such amazing women next to my side, who continue to make me a better person every single day. Especially when it's my mom. Who has inspired me to become the woman I am today," Katie wrote in the photo's caption on Instagram, adding the hashtag #womeninfire.
"I am super fortunate to be able to do my job. I am even more lucky to have such amazing women next to my side." https://t.co/adx78miNJc— ABC News (@ABC) September 27, 2022
Since then, several media sources have taken up the mother and daughter's chance meeting tale. The two expressed their hope that more people, especially women, will be motivated to join firefighting. "I am just so fortunate that I am able to do a job that I love while having my mom there supporting every single step I make," Katie added. "Every day, I wake up grateful that I can do this job. It is so rewarding, and I hope I can encourage others to become a firefighter."
“Not every mother-daughter duo can say they're firefighters together,” said 19-year-old Katie Jo Benitz. The Cow Canyon fire was their first time working together.— KAPP-KVEW (@KAPPKVEW) August 12, 2022
Bonnie shared that she feels that everyone should get to pursue their passion. "It just so happens that for Katie and I, our passion is fire and Emergency Medical Services, and it is something fun that we can share," she said. "But I also want other women to know you can do this job. With hard work and determination, it is absolutely possible, and being able to serve is an esteemed honor."