Calling all Alaska Hotshots!


May 10-11, 2024
Alaska Hotshots Reunion
Alaska Hotshots Reunion

We are celebrating the 40 years of Type 1 status, but we recognize that the Alaska crews existed long before then — and that the program was built up over time. It’s an important part of our shared history!

Alaska 'Shots ReunionWe’d love to see anyone who was on the crews before, during, and after we were around, and anybody associated with AFS in any capacity since the beginning of time.

Horvath Pond – Chena River Lakes Flood Plain
(RV and tent camping on site)
64.71756964969562, -147.25810594061997

Alaska 'Shots Reunion
How much?
Our priority is attendance — so there will be no cost to attend.
We will, however, sell t·shirts, hats, and other stuff to help cover costs.

Alaska Hotshot Reunion 2024

► ► RSVP HERE ◀︎ ◀︎

*This is not an official BLM event, and the BLM is not endorsing or sanctioning the event. 

Hotshots working under an ‘unsustainable system’

The first-ever review of the interagency hotshot crew program found that hotshots have been working under an “unsustainable system” and recommended 50 changes to improve current labor conditions.

The review, requested by the National Interagency Hotshot Crew Steering Committee, began on July 16, 2021, and the report was finalized in August.

Geronimo Hotshots
Geronimo Hotshots on the Big Windy Complex, Oregon, 2013.                                  USFS photo by Lance Cheung.

“The hotshot program is at a crossroads. In a time where more wildland firefighting capacity is needed, applicant lists for hotshot crews are less robust and the workforce is diminishing,” the report says. “If these challenges are not addressed in a timely manner, the current unsustainable system may leave crews unable to provide the leadership, expertise, and capabilities required in today’s wildland fire environment.”

The report summed up its recommendations in 12 points, which included:

    • Develop a specific wildland firefighter job series and increase pay
    • Provide a $40,000 minimum annual supply budget to each crew
    • Require a three-day rest and recuperation period
    • Allow crewmembers to attend personal events
    • Modify the hiring process
    • Start an outreach program to increase recruitment
    • Create a 30-day process to fill key vacancies
    • Update and clarify the Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations (SIHCO) so they are no longer misinterpreted by host units
    • Create an annual charter and program of work for the hotshot crew program to further limit gaps between leadership and the field
    • Update the repair and procurement processes for hotshot vehicles
    • Develop a minimum facility standard for hotshot crew facilities
    • Add housing, modify housing costs and create a consistent housing policy

The review addressed potential challenges to meeting the recommended changes, including lack of investment, systemic pushback, and cultural norms. Hotshot crew superintendents also said they’d prefer freedom and flexibility to make decisions for their own crews.

Without the recommended changes, the committee said agencies may not be able to sustain the current number of crews.

“It is important to acknowledge that while the fundamental reasons hotshot crews exist have not changed, the environment they operate in has,” the report said. “Unprecedented environmental challenges and increased social and political expectations contribute to IHCs finding themselves in high demand and short supply.”

The committee said similar reviews should be conducted by other program managers before the recommendations are broadly applied.

A bit of Bill Gabbert history

We got a note yesterday from Marty Parish, who knew Bill Gabbert years ago. He was amazed to see names here from his IHC days; he said he met Bill when he was with the Laguna Hotshots in the early 1980s, when Bill was working in Prevention and lived at Camp Ole, near the Laguna IHC camp.

Marty sent us this photo that was sent to him by another firefighter. He does not know where or when it was taken.  But that’s for sure Bill Gabbert at far left. Who can identify more of the guys in this photo?

Radar Squadron on Mt. Laguna
Radar Squadron on Mt. Laguna

“At 17 I became a Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) member in late 1978,” wrote Marty. “We were based out of a work camp located off the same highway (Sunrise Hwy) about two miles north of Camp Ole (Al Bahr Shrine Camp, now gone after the 2013 Chariot Fire). We worked closely with the USFS as part of the program. I was hired in ’79 as an Engine Crewman (Corral Canyon) while working as a YACC with Mert Thomas in Recreation (Mert got me the job!) and I finished the second half of the season that year ending in early January of 1980. I returned in the spring to Camp Ole for my first Hotshot season.”

“I didn’t really know Bill well,” added Marty.  “We had lived for a short time in the same USFS realm on the Cleveland National Forest-Descanso District; he had left suppression before we met and was working in Prevention. He lived in one of the USFS employee residences at Camp Ole (on Mt. Laguna, San Diego County).”

“I was a Laguna Hotshot for three years, but not sure he was there all three years (we relocated for a year to Descanso, then returned to Camp Ole, only to relocate back to Descanso permanently after I left for FHS).”

Marty, who was also with the Flagstaff Hotshots 1983-1985, added this. “Not sure who is in this photo, but that’s definitely Bill on far left side. Again, my condolences for your loss. A couple of others from that era recently passed too, including my dear friend Brian Connelly from LHS and MCB/Camp Pendleton Fire. Let me know if you pick up other names of people in the pic.”

Hit us up if you recognize any of the other guys in this photo or can provide other details — just click “Leave a comment” under the headline above. THANKS!