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Perhaps you should really know what a Hotshot Crew does. The very term "Hotshot" means many things to many people. But those of us who recruit, train, and work Hotshots, the job title is anything but glamorous. From experience we know that fire-fighting is 90 percent physical labor for the Hotshot Crews. The nature of the work is demanding. Only those of high strength, agility, coordination, and stamina can cope with the sustained physical exertion required of the average Hotshot. As a Hotshot you will be required to not only produce physically but to live together, eat together, sleep together in close, crowded conditions. Complete compatibility is in itself a difficult challenge.

You must take orders, and carry those orders out at all times, day after day. The emotional strain is extreme and the competitive pressure of your peer group is always present. For a crew is only as good as it's weakest member! When not on fire duty, you will be required to engage in daily structured physical fitness training that consists of running three to five miles, coordination exercises, pushups, sit-ups, chin-ups, stretching, etc.

The rest of your day will be like every other day: hard labor using various hand tools, other duties include digging weeds, picking up garbage, cleaning up toilets, sharpening tools, piling brush, and other duties as assigned. You will be expected to be ready at all times to answer fire calls on the District or throughout the United States. This requires you to be on a twenty four (24) hour alert.

On the fire line, the Hotshot Crews are singled out for the most hazardous and difficult assignments. It is normal for Hotshot Crews to be on the first shift up to thirty two hours before relief is available. Succeeding shifts of up to 16 hours are necessary. On occasion you will be "spiked" out away from the main fire camp, thirsty, hungry, and sleeping on rocky ground, sometimes without even a sleeping bag. You will hardly have the luxury of washing your hands, much less facilities to bathe. You will be filthy, exhausted, underfed, and hurting. There will be no privacy, no sanitation, no shelter, and no doctors, however first aid is available.

The Hotshot Crew is so named because of the need for tough, knowledgeable, rugged individuals who can be sent ahead of the main contingent of ordinary labor crews, and independently construct holding lines around critical segments of the fire, hold their line, and survive with little or no support. You will be required to walk long distances, sometimes packing heavy loads, up and down extreme mountainous terrain, (carrying packs of hose, chainsaws, or backpack pumps) cut trees into shorter lengths, drag limbs and brush out of the fire's path: dig (3 feet to 10 feet wide) fire lines to mineral soil: build trenches; haul hose, pack heavy portable pumps and tanks; and burn out your line before the fire gets there: then start extinguishing spot fires over your lines. And that's not the end of it. The dirty work of mop-up begins; digging and scraping all hotspots out and extinguishing the heat source. Other features of the job are living and breathing smoke for days, contending with mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, flies, stump beetles, snakes, scorpions, spiders, rolling rocks and falling debris, thorns, and cactus. It is dirty, dusty, hot, and you are always sweaty and at times freezing cold. Hotshots travel all over the United States and Alaska, often seeing home only a few days a summer. We want the toughest and the best. Being a Hotshot can be exciting, but very challenging. Many people try out for the Hotshots and don't make it. This is not the time or place to get in shape, you must be in outstanding shape and mentally tough when you start work.

Source: US Wildland Fire Association

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Replies to This Discussion

I am glad you posted this very well described duty of a Hotshot crew member. I worked for the US Forest service for 8 years (5 on a Hotshot Crew) before making the switch to the Fire Service. Most of the people I work with now have no idea what I used to do as a wildland firefighter. I show lots of pictures and tell lots of stories, but it is truely hard to understand in full unless you have actually done the job. I had a great time being a Hotshot! Traveling the western states, seeing beautiful wilderness, crew comradery, seeing amazing fire behavior, working hard, it was a lot of fun! Not all fun and games though, being a Hotshot is definitely not for the weak minded as you are tested daily with physical and emotional challenges. My biggest pet peeve now that I am in the Fire Service is listening to other firefighters complain about the smallest, most insignificant things. Next time you have a crew member complain about having to get up in the middle of the night for an aid run, wash the chiefs rig, clean the administrations bathroom etc.... remind them that we have it pretty good in the fire service and there are others out there who have to deal with a less than comfortable work environment. Show them the Hotshot job description that Nick posted and ask if they want to change professions. I would bet that they will stop complaining about the small stuff and appreciate what they have now. DTRT


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