Tahoe National Forest Hotshot crews looking for recruits for 2020 field season

Submitted to the Sierra Sun

The Tahoe National Forest has three Hotshot crews: the Tahoe Hotshots, the American River Hotshots, and the Truckee Hotshots.

And they’re looking for some recruits, accepting applications through now thru Sept. 30 for Temporary Seasonal Wildland Firefighters for the three Hotshot crews as well as engines, fuels crew, Tahoe Helitack, dispatch, and lookouts for the 2020 field season.

Hiring information can be found on the Tahoe National Forest website under Fire Hire.

“Interagency Hotshot Crews are the most highly trained, skilled, and experienced type of firefighting handcrews,” the U.S. Forest Service website states. “Hotshot crews were first established in Southern California in the late 1940s. They were called “Hotshot” crews because they worked on the hottest part of wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, state and county agencies sponsor more than 100 Interagency Hotshots Crews.”

Truckee Hotshots are based out of Hobart Mills Work Center, near Truckee which has housed crews since 1962, including a crew that was primarily staffed by Native Americans, and then the Hobart Hotshots which became the Tahoe Hotshots when they moved to Bullards Bar in 1986. Now it houses the Truckee Hotshots.

“It’s great to be back at Hobart. All the evaluators here remember what it’s like to be a Hotshot crewmember,” said Eric Rice, originally from Graegale who was the former Tahoe Hotshot Superintendent and now TNF Division 3 on the Yuba River Ranger District.

Other former Hotshots present included Eric Petterson, Division 6 for Truckee and Sierraville; Jason Withrow, Fire Chief 2; Marissa MacDonald, Grass Valley Emergency Command Center Dispatcher who was on the crew the year Truckee became a Type 1 Hotshot crew; and Will Harris, Eldorado National Forest Georgetown District Fire Management Officer and former Superintendent for the El Dorado Hotshots.


The tradition continues as the Tahoe National Forest, Truckee Hotshots have been recertified as a Type I Interagency Hotshot Crew.

The simulation for the recertification is intended to replicate the dynamic conditions, situations, harsh terrain and elements the crew will face, assigned to the hottest and most dangerous part of the wildfires they will fight. All involved in administering this certification came from the ground up. Former hotshot superintendents and hotshots now in prominent leadership positions, together encompassing 45 years of boots on the ground experience observed the Hotshots. They evaluated the Hotshots’ application of Type I handcrew wildfire suppression fundamentals, safety, communication, and quality of work as they engaged the simulated wildfire.

The recertification began with the report of a vegetation fire and the dispatch of the Truckee Hotshots. With heavy packs and tools in hand, the Truckee Hotshots hiked in to a complex wildfire simulation to recertify as a Type I Interagency Hotshot Crew. “A Mod” and “B Mod”, mod standing for module, each consisting of 10 Hotshots initial attacked the simulated wildfire by cutting and advancing fireline quickly and effectively on both flanks of the fire, while taking suppression action on spot fires igniting outside of their line.

They worked alongside hoselays and firefighters from adjoining engine resources, and utilized simulated air resources via radio for air support.

As incidents within an incident occur, the Hotshots responded to a medical emergency of a fallen crew member from a simulated tree strike. A squad of five, hiked back down the line to retrieve trauma equipment and a backboard which they hiked up to where the crew member was being assessed and prepared for transport by EMTs on the Hotshot crew. The crew then took turns carrying him on the backboard safely back down the line before re-engaging in fire suppression.

The wildfire simulation culminated with the emergency radio traffic that evokes strong emotion even in simulation…the report of the crew’s escape route being cut off by fire. Falling back on their training, these words resulted in a cool, calm, collective, and quick reverse tool order back down the line where the hotshots deployed their practice fire shelters in tight formation, calling out to each other to make sure everyone was accounted for.

Why be a Hotshot?

An inspiring moment of the re-certification process when each Hotshot candidly shared their answer to the same question from an evaluator. With this accomplishment being theirs, this article will end in their words, answering the evaluator’s question, why do you want to be a Hotshot?

Truckee Hotshot Superintendent Scott Burghardt, from Walnut Creek: “After working 20 hour shifts and then having downtime together, you experience true friendship and camaraderie at its finest.”

Adam Jarkow, 20 years in Truckee: “I’ve spent 18 years Hotshotting and I return for how close you get with your crew and the relationships formed from shared suffering. It’s now in my blood.”

Travis Shoemaker, from Grass Valley:“I wanted to be a part of the history of this place. It’s a serious job, but we have fun.”

Truckee Hotshot Captain, Kevin Mecham from Redding: “Redding’s a beautiful place and everyone knows it. I loved the whole Hotshot culture, the opportunity to be more engaged and effective, being able to develop people, the feeling of community, family, and camaraderie, the mental and physical challenge and pushing past what you think are your limits.”

Eric Rice, former Tahoe Hotshot superintendent, current TNF District Fire Management Officer: “I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I almost didn’t become a Hotshot when the Tahoe Hotshot Superintendent at the time, forgot to make the call to offer me the job. We all have that sickness. Discipline, structure, work, physical fitness, fighting fire — being a part of the action — Heck ya!”

Source: Truckee Ranger District, Tahoe National Forest

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