The El Cariso Interagency Hotshots have been disbanded.
It pains me as an alumni to write that. My first job as a firefighter was on the crew. El Cariso was one of the first two hotshot crews created about 60 years ago after World War II. For many decades they have been working out of the Trabuco District on the Cleveland National Forest in southern California.
The crew ended the 2012 fire season as a fully certified Type 1 Hotshot crew. But they began the 2013 season as a Type 2 crew due to vacancies at critical positions. Throughout the year their organization deteriorated, suffering more vacancies, as well as a lack of consistent supervision and crew leadership according to a high-ranking U.S. Forest Service official we talked with.
The crew lost both of their captains, their superintendent was detailed to the Forest Supervisor’s office, and as the latter part of the fire season approached they were not even qualified as a Type 2 Initial Attack crew. Due to these issues and concerns for firefighter safety, the National Forest shut down the crew when they returned from working on the Rim Fire at Yosemite National Park. The remaining permanent personnel were transferred to engine stations, but the temporary crew members were laid off.
The Forest expects this situation to be temporary, and next year will begin rebuilding the organization. With the long list of interagency requirements for hotshot crews, it will not be an easy task. We wish them luck in reconstituting the El Cariso Hotshots.
The crew has endured other disastrous situations in the past. In 1966 12 people on the crew died as a result of burn injuries on the Loop Fire on the Angeles National Forest in southern California. And in 1959 three members of the crew and four others were entrapped and killed on the Decker Fire just a few miles from their base west of Elsinore, California..