Arizona 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?
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...better call
for Medevac before he does the funky chicken and
his brain cooks inside his skull! Nahhh...he'll be
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 Michael
Kennard 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.
But then again, I always had a certain Gumpish aspect to my career, a characteristic that only
accelerated during my second a career in law enforcement, but hoping to duplicate that is
definitely not a good plan. I think Hotshot Fitness has a much better plan, because 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 don't do that, just you know...FYI.
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 cold
and sometimes 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 The
other "best" IHC of all time is the Santa Fe Interagency Hotshot Crew, but unfortunately no
photos exist of this outstanding crew fightin' fire or at least photos that I have during the years I
was with the crew. There are however, two photos of smoke from a fire up in Washington state,
and one shows me all by myself organizing my line gear. I don't remember who took them or how
I got them?
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, that burned near Grand Junction, Colorado.
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 DEATH ZONE (a canyon above a wildfire) 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
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 that incident could ever happen again. But
then it did...in a really big way on the Yarnell Hill Fire Disaster of 2013.
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 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 the public 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 wild land 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
that 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. This disaster killed 14 WF in total including the 9
Prineville Hotshots because they were working in the DEATH ZONE, which is a canyon above a
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. This disaster happened because the El Cariso Hotshots were working in the
DEATH ZONE, which is a canyon above a wildfire.
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 the deaths of the Prineville Hotshots on the South Canyon Fire
to be in a category by it self although most of the primary and secondary causal factors were the
same as the other three hotshot disaster fires in history. But in any case, all of these hotshots, 43
in all, were burned to death because they were working in the DEATH ZONE...which is a canyon
above a wildfire.
Now that was some Old School transportation.
Crummies? We didn't need no stinkin' crummies!
We just piled into the back of our open cattle truck
and away we went! Hahaha!
Although if your crew carrier is covered with
slurry...it probably means you parked too close to
the head of the fire? I'm just sayin'...
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? Wait a minute, I
know...breakin' the 10 and the 18 was the fire
operations plan! Hahaha! No, seriously folks....I'll
be here all week!
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" or even my personal favorite, Blondie in her best rendition of, "Heart Of Glass" because of the
very important message she gives us in the middle of the song. But...I am trying to make this web site relevant for the
younger generation of wildland firefighters. So...crank up your speakers andenjoy? Okay, just one more for old times
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 IHC
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 bosses.
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
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 success. So...
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