‘My biggest idol:’ Tri-Cities mother and daughter firefighters reunite at Cow Canyon wildfire

ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Firefighting is in Katie Jo Benitz’s blood. Ever since she grew up with her mother fighting fires and doing EMS, when she graduated high school in 2021, she said she had to try it out. To run into her mom at the Cow Canyon fire, she said, was a very special moment for both of them.

“I didn’t want to push her into something that she wasn’t truly passionate about, you know, just because it’s right for me. I didn’t know if it would be right for her and it absolutely is because she just glows when she talks about fire and EMS,” said Bonnie Rogers, her mother and a captain and training officer at the Benton County Fire District #4.

Captain Rogers was the first female firefighter at the BCFD #4 in 2010.

Her daughter said, “She’s been my biggest idol. Like, I’ve always looked up to her and been, like, ‘Yeah, I want to be like her.’”

From dressing up as a firefighter for Halloween when she was young, to taking pictures in front of the Benton 4 rigs at prom—Benitz even got to help pin her mother for her promotion to Captain.

Benitz graduated high school in 2021, and went straight into her firefighting training. In May, the Yakima Unit for the Washington DNR hired her on as a firefighter 1 trainee.

Meeting at the Cow Canyon Fire

While Benitz was working at the Cow Canyon fire near Ellensburg, she heard her mother might be coming.

Captain Rogers said, “I had been working over the Vantage highway fire and then the Cow Canyon fire started. And so they were looking for a safety officer.”

Benitz said, “I was like, ‘you’re so close to us, just stop by!’ And I get a text from her, and she says ‘I’m headed your way,’”

Captain Rogers arrived and after checking in, she immediately went to look for her daughter.

“And then I heard Katie laugh, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Katie!’” said Captain Rogers.

Benitz said, “She was just like, ‘Yep, that’s my daughter.’”

They took a picture together at the fire, which gathered a lot of support over social media.

Katie Jo Benitz and Captain Bonnie Rogers at the Cow Canyon Fire 2022

Firefighter Katie Jo Benitz and Captain Bonnie Rogers at the Cow Canyon Fire 2022

One commenter said, ‘That’s a amazing photo that not many will ever have. Stay safe out there.’

Benitz responded to the post and said, ‘So happy I can call you my mom. If I even become half the person you are I will call it a success. ❤️ thanks for stopping by and I’ll make sure to have my gloves on’

A role model for first responders

Benitz said, “Somebody called me a role model. And I was like, you know, that made me feel good, because sometimes there’s hard days at any job, you know. And seeing that it’s like, yeah, that’s why I do it.”

Even though Rogers didn’t want to sway the influence of her daughters, Benitz said she’s lucky to have the same job as her mom.

“I want to be a positive impact for little girls everywhere to know that they can be exactly where I’m standing,” said Benitz.

Rogers said, “As she and her sisters grew up, I always wanted to make them proud. And so I worked really hard, just so that I can be that role model to them. And I see Katie in that.”

It’s a tie that brings them closer than just mother and daughter.

Benitz said, “Not every, not every mother-daughter duo can say they’re firefighters together. And you know we have struggles in the job, but like, we get to experience our struggles together sometimes.”