BLM creates new hotshot crew in Arizona

blm logoThe Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today the creation of a new hotshot firefighting crew in southern Arizona. The establishment of the crew responds to a nationwide increase in wildfire activity and the need for additional skilled personnel. The crew will be stationed at Fort Huachuca thanks to a partnership between the BLM and U.S. Army.

Recruitment for the crew will emphasize the selection of military veterans, consistent with BLM’s national emphasis on bringing veterans into the wildfire workforce. The BLM’s long-term goal is for a crew made up entirely of veterans.

“Bringing a new elite firefighting unit into Southern Arizona will benefit the communities we serve and recognize the dual need for additional firefighting resources and quality employment for military veterans,” said BLM Arizona State Director Raymond Suazo.

The crew will be the only hotshot crew (also known as a Type 1 crew) in Southern Arizona and one of only 12 BLM hotshot crews nationwide. Hotshot crews are the most skilled and highly trained units among wildland fire personnel, meeting stringent requirements established by interagency fire managers and routinely engaged with the most complex wildfire incidents.

The crew will increase the availability of wildfire resources locally in Southern Arizona and at the national level. Proactive measures to prevent high severity fires, such as fuel treatments and prescribed burns, will occur when the crew is not engaged with an active wildfire.

The BLM partnered with the U.S. Army at Fort Huachuca (map) to provide barracks space to the crew through a lease.

“We are proud to provide a base for the new BLM hotshot crew. Our support is another way Fort Huachuca contributes to the safety and security of our community, Arizona and the nation,” said U.S. Army Garrison Fort Huachuca commander Col. Thomas A. Boone.

A nationwide evaluation of personnel needs completed by BLM Arizona and the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho led to the creation of the crew. 2015 marks another record-breaking wildlife season for the western United States with over eight million acres burned to date throughout the country. BLM continually evaluates the preparedness of the fire program and the ability to respond to wildfires threatening public land resources and surrounding communities.

The crew will be managed by the BLM Gila District. “We are thrilled to bring these benefits to the region and provide career paths for our firefighting community,” said Timothy Shannon, BLM Gila District manager.

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The BLM is advertising a job for the GS-9 Superintendent.

Thanks and a tip of the hat goes out to Chris, Tom, and Tom.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, Bill Gabbert now writes about it from the Black Hills.

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5 thoughts on “BLM creates new hotshot crew in Arizona”

  1. With all due respect, I cannot think of a worse idea than creating more Hotshot crews. This nation does not need more fire resources – it needs LESS and it needs municipalities and homeowners to take personal responsibility for:
    (a) getting insurance that will help them deal with losses from wildland fire, and
    (b) maintaining defensible space around their home, and
    (c) ensuring their community or volunteer fire department is appropriately staffed and trained so that any wildland fire starts can be managed (to the extent possible) appropriately.

    Note that I say “managed (to the extent possible)” above. The key to dealing with wildland fire is to recognize that it is part of nature. It is going to happen. Decades of aggressively fighting all fire starts have done nothing but create huge, huge fuel beds that are ready to burn.

    So, if this hotshot crew does move forward – which I think is a bad idea – I hope they do a lot of prescribed fire in the off season.

    Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts.

    1. Well stated, and I agree. This worn out notion that we FIGHT wildland fire needs to be laid to rest. The term “hotshot,” needs to go the way of the dodo. Fire managers perhaps, fire herders, fire steering, fire you name it. Be creative, while accurate.

      We can learn much from the Canadians in their approach, terminology. I believe it is time to do away with fire shelters as it appears the Canadians do not carry them. I attempted to manage wildland fires without carrying a shelter and we did not put ourselves in a position to be entrapped. We ran away, reengaged when allowed. Back in the day, the Alaskan big fires were managed by using the topography, natural breaks and yes, sometimes the ocean. We need to adapt that style of management, tactics to many of the monsters we see today.

      These so-called heroic actions involving structures that have cause fatalities/injuries are unacceptable. When will we learn that no structures are worth any sacrifice, stop it. I agree that the communities/owners of these structures must do their best to defend their homes, but once all hell breaks loose, turn on the sprinklers and run away.

      Until the politicians, political appointed managers, and the rank and file management realize that we do not put out these monsters, gobblers when they escape initial efforts, delete attack. Once these fires are in their naturally consuming phase we must work with amazing force. Steer it, burn away fuel, use natural and man made breaks, or wait it out. That rise in humidity is a help, shorter day light, rains and snow, rinse and repeat. Good luck.

      1. The explosion of the WUI is the problem as I see it.
        Meaning: I do not think anyone is being asked to take heroic actions to save structures. I honestly don’t. The WUI has changed a lot in the past 30 years and by default if we continue on a path of super-aggressive initial attack we are going to by default be putting a lot of wildland firefighters in harm’s way because aggressive initial attack in the WUI is different than aggressive initial attack in the middle of a forest with no houses for miles and miles.
        The Twisp-area tragedies are a good example.
        I believe that the expectations of the public need to be dialed back, so that we start to treat fire more like hurricanes.

  2. We are thrilled to have this new much needed IHC coming to SE Arizona. It is long overdue. We have a very strong partnership via service first here with FT Huachuca, USFS,NPS, BLM,and FWS. Currently the Sierra Vista Ranger District supports and is partially funded by the Army to oversee Ft Huachuca’s prescribed fire program and we also provide one T6 engine. Mark Ruggiero, Sierra Vista District Ranger

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