Arizona Sonoran Desert Lizards hiding from the
scorching, punishing, blazing yellow eye of the
desert sun in the meager shade of a big basalt
boulder in 115 (plus) degrees on the Tonto
National Forest while fightin' wildfire! Yes, but
it's a dry heat?
So anyway...this page should give you some idea who hotshots are and what they do. So now the only question
that we need to answer is...why? Money? Is it the lifestyle, culture, or esprit de corps? Is it the action,
challenges, or adrenaline? Maybe it's all of the above and much...much more? I do know it's complicated and
hard to explain because it's something you feel. And feelings are hard to explain to anyone who hasn't
experienced the same feeling. Am I right?
What makes hotshots tick? What makes them crawl out of a paper sleeping bag on the cold ground high up the
mountains at zero dark thirty (which is usually 0400 hours), lace up their frozen boots and get ready to saddle
up for another hump up the mountain to fight FIRE? I'm glad you asked and is something I am going to attempt
to explain in the book I am writing. In the meantime the other question is, "What do hotshots do?" The
following linked documentary video is a collection of snapshots in time showing what hotshots do by following
the lives of hotshots from one of the two best IHC (Interagency Hotshot Crews) that ever fought wildfire in our
great nation from 1975 through the 1980 fire season. This fabled, storied and legendary IHC is of course, the
Happy Jack Interagency Hotshot Crew and the other "best" IHC of all time is the Santa Fe Interagency Hotshot
Crew, but unfortunately, almost no photos exist of this outstanding crew fightin' fire. Or at least photos that I
have or can get. The primary purpose of this website is to provide a platform to promote, display and
launch my long awaited, much anticipated and highly acclaimed book, "Betrayed by Our Fire Gods", which has
been under development ever since I was a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the Battlement Creek Fire
Disaster of 1976.
All because I had been with the Happy Jack IHC on that fire and fate put me in the right place at the right time as
one half of a two man backfire team who ignited the backfire that ultimately burned over some members from
one of our three sister hotshot crews, the Mormon Lake Hotshots from our home unit, the Coconino National
Forest. This incident happened because of a deeply flawed operations plan and their burn out team which
consisted of their crew boss, one of their two squad bosses and two crewmen who were in the wrong place at
the wrong time. But fate didn't put them in the kill zone to die...their crew boss did that all by himself where the
fire ultimately burned the Mormon Lake Crew Boss and the two crewmen to death although the squad boss
survived, barely, with third degree burns over most of his body after he was medevaced to be treated in a
highly specialized burn unit in another state.
Anyway...I became acutely and very painfully aware that one of the primary purposes of the staff ride was to
perpetuate the original cover up and lies that had been told and then documented as fact in the original disaster
fire investigation and subsequent written and highly detailed report. And that really pissed me off because you
know...I'ma sheepdog at heart and I wanted to be part of something that was going to reduce the chances a
repeat of that incident could ever happen again. And although I have been working on this project off and on
since the Battlement Creek Fire Disaster Staff Ride on the 30th Anniversary of that fire, I could not finish it
because my book outline hadn't been completed and I didn't know what exactly I wanted to write about or even
how to do it. But that has recently changed after my participation in a crowd sourced alternative investigation
and analysis of the deaths of 19 members of the GMIHC on the Yarnell Fire Disaster of 2013 on the blog
sponsored by Investigative Media (IM). And now I can finally write my book because I recently finished my
outline on the IM blog and now I know what I want to write about and how I want to do it.
The secondary purpose of this website is to inform you...the reader about who hotshots are, what they do and
why they do it, at least IMHO, because hotshots are generally unknown to the general public and even when
people and the news media do know about the existence of hotshots, what they think they know is wrong or
misunderstood. For example, whenever the news media sees a crew getting ready to hump up a mountain or
engage a wildfire, they usually identify them as "hotshots." But they usually get is wrong by assuming that
every hand crew they see is a hotshot crew but this simply isn't the case because not all wildland firefighting
(WF) hand crews are designated as elite Type 1A hotshot crews, the best of the best, the grunts, the ground
pounders, the knuckle draggers, the elite WF front line infantry and the tip of the WF spear...Hooah! The fact is,
only a very small percentage of hand crews qualify for this rating, which included the Granite Mountain
Interagency Hotshot Crew as there are only a little more than 100 hundred hotshot crews in the nation out of
thousands of wildland fire fighting crews.
In my day on the fire line there were only 50 such crews and all of those were fielded by the U.S. Forest Service.
So here is the bottom line...this project has been on the mother of all mission creeps since the Battlement Creek
Fire Disaster Fire Staff Ride in July of 2006. I started out wanting to set the record straight pertaining to the
deaths and serious injury on this one fire by writing about that fire and the circumstances surrounding it.
But in the process of doing so, I quickly found out that the Battlement Creek Fire Disaster wasn't a stand alone
incident, or a "one off" as I had believed for several decades and as it was presented to the WF community writ
large. This was because I learned while doing research for my book, that the circumstances and most if not all
of the facts and circumstances pertaining to the fire, in addition to both the primary and secondary causal
factors of the Battlement Creek Fire Disaster were nearly identical to those surrounding the deaths of 9
hotshots, which was an entire squad of the Prineville Hotshots on the South Canyon Fire (which is often
mistakenly called the Storm King Mountain Fire) of 1994.
And then I learned that the circumstances and most if not all of the facts and circumstances, in addition to both
the primary and secondary causal factors of the Loop Fire Disaster were nearly identical to those of the Loop
Fire of 1966 on which 12 El Cariso Hotshots were burned to death and everyone else on the crew narrowly
escaped with their lives but almost all of them were severely burned. Once is an anomaly, twice is a
coincidence, but three times is a pattern or an enemy action. There were the El Cariso Hotshots on the Loop
Fire of 1966, the Mormon Lake Hotshots on the Battlement Creek Fire of 1976, and now...the Granite Mountain
Hotshots on the Yarnell Hill Fire of 2013. On a side note...I consider to be in a category by it self although many
of both the primary and secondary causal factors were the same as the other three hotshot disaster fires in
|WELCOME TO MY HOTSHOT WEBSITE
|Now this....was some Old School hotshot
transportation. Crummies? We didn't need
no stinkin' crummies! We just piled into the
back of our open cattle truck and away we
Although if your crew carrier is covered
with slurry...it probably means you parked
too close to the head of the fire? Just
Wait just one minute. I parked that truck
there! And that's my hardhat and pack set
radio on the hood.
And I parked the bus in the linked photo
too, WTF was wrong with me?
Please excuse the head bangin' hotshot page theme song that gives me a headache. I am old school and would
have selected something from "Fleetwood Mac" and specifically the "Rumors" album if it was for me, probably
"Rhiannon" which would have been spot on perfect for that time period. Or...perhaps even Pat Benatar with her
best rendition of "We Live For Love?" But...I am trying to make this web site relevant for the younger
generation of wildland firefighters. So...crank up your speakers and ENJOY?
Hmmm...3 good to go, one showing signs of heat
exhaustion, better put him on Medevac watch list
and one showing signs of heat stroke...call for
Medevac before he does the funky chicken and
his brain cooks inside his skull! Nahhh...he'll be
The former Santa Fe National Forest, Forest Dispatcher Cyndie Hogg, made up the GS-0462 adoption form and
circulated it throughout the forest back in the early 1980's. I think Cyndie was the best Forest Dispatcher in our
Region and maybe the country at the time. Cyndie was also a good friend to the Santa Fe Hotshots who
promoted us to others. This was one reason it was so hard for me to replace her in 1984 after she moved on
because I wasn't the best dispatcher in the Region. For one thing, I hated to work in an office. Plus...I prefer to
go out and kill something to eat rather than wait for it to die (Old Buzzard Joke). Anyway...Cyndie also came up
with the Santa Fe Organizational Chart and a mock up of what they would have looked liked taking a break while
building one of the great pyramids that she also circulated around the forest to management.
Now this...is the ultimate example of parking the crew
carrier to damn close to the head of the fire. And I was a
crewman then...so this one wasn't on me. I took this
photo from my seat on our hotshot bus!
The dark line you can see on the left hand side of the
photo, was the bus window frame. Now...you might think
that someone would have said, "Ehhhh...excuse me, but
do you think we might be just a little bit close to you
know...the FIRE! I mean...it is a CROWN FIRE, just FYI.
But nope...one of the two hotshot calls to arms and
ubiquitous commands that preceded every engagement
and made every hotshot who heard it leap into action was
given from right there on the spot. "TOOL UP!" The
second most commonly used hotshot command was
"Saddle Up" if tools has already been issued to the crew
but it meant the same thing. Prepare to engage.
This command was then immediately followed by frenzied
and highly choreographed activity and continuous blur of
motion as an entire hotshot donned all required Personal
Safety Equipment and line gear in the same closed and
cramped space, at the same time before finally spilling
out of the crew carrier in a jumble and forming into
squads in tool order behind their respective squad
In the meantime...the Equipment Manager (senior crew
member) prepared to begin distributing the appropriate
hand tool to each crew member as they filed by the rear
of the crew carrier all while the sawyers and their
swampers competed in the same tight space to prepare
their chain saws and swamper packs for immediate action.
I imagine this flurry of activity it is very similar to what
happens when sailors are given the command, "Battle
Stations", minus the electronic signal generators in the
General Announcing System. Except inch for inch, there
are probably even more people trying to do even more
things in an even tighter spaces in an even shorter
amount of time?
I didn't even think there was a problem at the time, I just
wanted a photo of the flames before we started to cut
line. It wasn't as bad as it looks though because the fire
was moving parallel to the crew carrier. Yes...but what if
the wind would have shifted, what would have happened
then? Ehhhh...I'm not really sure? But...everything
worked out okay in the end and you can't argue with
So...you want to be a hotshot? Well...the first thing you should do is go to this website; Hotshot Fitness and
then follow all of their principles, recommendations and guidance because they really have it all figured out.
But...whatever you do, don't follow my example because I started my hotshot career with a BMI that was way
too high to ever make an outstanding hotshot and I ended my hotshot career the same way. I got away with it
because I was first and foremost an accidental hotshot and then I followed that up by becoming an accidental
hotshot crew boss. But then again...I always had a certain Gumpish aspect to my career but hoping to duplicate
that is definitely not a good plan. I think Hotshot Fitness has a much better plan. Because you know...hope isn't
a plan. A higher than normal BMI makes things that are hard...just that much harder and often impossible to
accomplish. So, you know...don't do that, just you know...FYI.