(Originally published at 2:31 p.m. MT, June 10, 2013; revised June 11 to clarify the fate of the remaining seven firefighters.)
The only military Hotshot crew in the United States will be history by the end of September. The Vandenberg Hotshots were created after the disastrous Honda Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force in southern California in 1977.
Due to the cuts required by the “sequestration” legislation passed by Congress, the budget has been reduced for the crew. Combined with attrition and some crew members leaving for other jobs when they saw this coming, only nine are left on the crew.
Mike Provencio of the Vandenberg Professional Firefighters told Wildfire Today that the firefighters have received notice that their positions will cease to exist at the end of the fiscal year which ends September 30, 2013. It is likely that two of the nine left will receive promotions into the regular civilian fire department on the base. The other seven will most likely retain their jobs but be configured as a fire suppression module, Mr. Provencio said.
Three people were entrapped and killed on the Honda Canyon fire, including the Base Commander Colonel Joseph Turner, Fire Chief Billy Bell and Assistant Fire Chief Eugene Cooper. Additionally, severe burns were experienced by Heavy Equipment Operator Clarence McCauley. He later died due to complications from the burns. A book about this fire, “Beyond Tranquillon Ridge”, was written by Joseph N. Valencia.
Thanks go out to Keith