Fire Explorers memories: Greg Greenhoe

 ~ Memories from Greg Greenhoe, from 30 years ago:
It was the fall of 1994 and the adult leaders and several fire explorers walked into the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office and inquired whether we would consider sponsoring their Fire Explorer Post. Their sponsor at the time was the City of South Pasadena Fire Department, who had decided to go with a Fire Cadet program and terminate their relationship with Explorer Post 99.

Greg & Shirley RETIRED!
Greg & Shirley RETIRED!

I said why not — this could be a good way to recruit young wildland firefighters into our  temporary ranks.

With the help of Training Officer Jim Hall and a large number of rank-and-file firefighters from stations and crews all over the forest, the Post was launched. In the spring of 1995 we hosted the first Wildland Firefighter Explorer Academy at Little Tujunga. Now 30 years later the ANF has three Explorer Posts and is hosting their 30th annual academy.

Graduates of the program are now in leadership positions throughout the Forest Service and other agencies. Hats off to all those who have carried the torch and kept this program going over the years — I’m impressed!

Wildland Firefighter Explorer Academy
Wildland Firefighter Explorer Academy

Wildland Firefighter Explorer Academy


Firehouse MagazineFROM GREG:
(currently in travel status)
Just got off the phone with one of my explorers from Class #1 in 1995!

He’s a retired San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy.

We worked on the Angeles for 5 years. The kid was on the cover of the September 1997 Firehouse Magazine. Haven’t talked to him in 25 years!



Angeles National Forest conducts four-week Firefighter Academy

For 100 people hired as GS-5 permanent seasonals

Angeles National Forest Firefighter Academy
Angeles National Forest Firefighter Academy. USFS photo.

The Angeles National Forest in Southern California recently conducted a four-week Firefighter Academy. The 100 trainees were hired under a fairly recently granted authority of direct hiring for GS-5 Senior Firefighters. This hiring process was approved in order to help mitigate recent challenges in recruiting firefighters. Most of the Academy participants previously had multiple years of experience in wildland fire working for the US Forest Service or other agencies in California or across the country.

Another method for placing personnel into Senior Firefighter positions that has been used for years is the Wildland Firefighter Apprenticeship Program, a 3,000 hour on-the-job learning program, which includes a two month-long residential firefighting academy at the Wildland Fire Training Center in McClellan, California.

The direct hire process and the Academy help make it more feasible to achieve the agency’s goal of increasing the number of firefighters in permanent positions to 80 percent, with only 20 percent in seasonal positions. Many of the seasonals who were limited to working only 1,039 hours a year, not counting overtime, will now be in “permanent seasonal” 18 and 8 jobs, with guaranteed employment and full benefits for 18 of the 24 pay periods each year.

A person with knowledge of the program who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the Forest Service told Wildfire Today that the goals of the Academy were to level the playing field, to cover the curriculum the trainees would have had if they had gone through the Apprenticeship program, and to ensure that they all had at least an intermediate level of training along with exposure to multiple aspects of the fire management program.

There were many logistical issues that had to be accomplished before the four-weeks of training began. Those were handled by a Battalion Chief with Engine Captains and Hotshot Captains from throughout the Angeles National Forest. One of the most time-consuming projects was to provide uniforms for each of the 100 trainees upon their arrival. That required collecting clothing size data from everyone, then ordering, receiving, and finally sorting and issuing the garments at the beginning of the training.

The courses completed in the Academy included:

  • L280 – Followership to Leadership 
  • S131 – Firefighter Type 1 
  • S219 – Firing Operations 
  • S260 – Interagency Incident Business Management 
  • S270 – Basic Air Operations 
  • S290 – Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior 
  • Applied Skills Wildland Firemanship
        • Incident Size-ups 
        • Sand Table and Simtable Fire simulations
        • Helicopter Target Descriptions 
        • Avenza Setup and Use 
        • A219 Prerequisites
            • A100 – Basic Aviation 
            • A110 – Aviation Transportation of Hazardous Materials 
            • A117 – Fixed Wing Hand Signals 
            • A200 – Mishap Review 
        • Physical Training Test (1.5mi run, Pushups, Situps, & Pullups) 
    • CRM – Crew Resource Management (7 Skills) 
    • Work Capacity Test Arduous Level 
Angeles National Forest Firefighter Academy
Angeles National Forest Firefighter Academy. USFS photo.

One National Forest will have two 30-person hotshot crews next year

And, three 10-person engine crews

Angeles National Forest pilot program for Engine crew to have 10 personnel
Angeles National Forest pilot program for Engine crew with 10 personnel, working 12-hour days. “D/O” means day off.

During the last three weeks there has been a surprising amount of discussion about increasing the size of wildland fire crews. One national forest is hiring 30-person hotshot crews and 10-person engine crews.

  • October, 20, 2021: Tim Swedberg recommended 30-person hotshot crews in an article on Wildfire Today;
  • October 27, 2021: In testimony before the House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Natural Resources, Jaelith Hall-Rivera, Deputy Forest Service Chief for State and Private Forestry said, “We need to have larger crew sizes, so that people can take time off so they can rest and have a work/life balance. That’s going to mean we are going to need more firefighters.”
  • November 9, 2021: Ms. Hall-Rivera sent a memo to all U.S. Forest Service Regional Foresters directing them to add five firefighters to Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHC) to bring the size up to 25.

However, the effort to increase the size of USFS crews had been seriously discussed earlier. Wildfire Today has learned that the Angeles National Forest (ANF) in Southern California developed a proposal in 2018 for 30-person Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHC). Not only that, but we have obtained two memos written August 12, 2021 by the Fire Chief of the ANF recommending a pilot program for IHCs to be staffed with 30 people and engine crews to have 10.

Below is the ANF memo dated August 12, 2021 about 30-person hotshot crews.

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”30-person Interagency Hotshot Crews”]


And next is the ANF memo dated August 12, 2021 about 9 or 10-person engine crews. (Since then, they have decided on 10-person engine crews.)

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”ANF Engine Staffing”]


The Angeles National Forest (ANF) is not only proposing larger IHC and engine crews, they are stepping out ahead of the crowd according to a person who prefers not to publicly disclose their identity. In recent weeks they completed hiring to have two 30-person hotshot crews and three 10-person engine crews in 2022. The newly selected personnel (promotions of existing permanent employees) will be effective in January, 2022. The crews will be fully staffed to start annual training in April.

One of the ANF memos states, “Although this [20-person IHC] model was effective for decades the current standard does not provide the depth to meet the higher demands for crew availability to provide employee wellbeing or meet the needs of crew availability across the fire year…This proposed module will increase capacity from 12 pay periods (6 Months) of availability to 18 Pay Periods (9 Months) of availability. This proposal will significantly improve work life balance for Hotshot firefighters… Although the IHC will have a full 3rd squad, the IHC will maintain the current deployment/mobilization standards of 20 personnel. Adherence to the current mobilization standard of 20 personnel will allow for an ongoing rotation for the 3rd module to stand down and remain “local only”. This stand-down period will help to provide ample opportunities for hotshot firefighters to manage annual leave and balance work with time at home. This will also help to provide the workload pacing to sustain a crew for 9 months while better managing the effects of cumulative fatigue and burn out. Finally, it will provide increased capacity for employees to develop for the next level of leadership through single resource assignments.”

Configuration of the 30-person ANF IHC

Two ANF IHCs will each add seven apprentice/Permanent Seasonals working at least 18 pay periods, a third hotshot Captain, a third squad leader, and two senior firefighters.

ANF IHC staffing pilot program
ANF Interagency Hotshot Crew pilot program staffing pattern.

Configuration of the 10-person ANF Engine Crew

To the standard USFS Region 5 (California) Type 3 engine crew of seven people working five days a week, the upgraded crew will add three positions — a second Engineer, a second Assistant Fire Engine Operator, and a third Senior Firefighter. With the 12 hours per day staffing pattern, which we have been told the ANF has selected, they will work three days one week and four the other, with three days off in a row and four days off in a row during a two-week pay period. All of these staffing patterns call for five on each day.

History of IHC crew size

Since the early 1970s IHCs have been comprised of 20 people, or recently in some cases as many as 22 to help account for attrition, difficulty hiring, personal time off, sickness, and injuries. In 1970 El Cariso Hotshots had 36 people. When the size was reduced the next year, the story we were told was that the Forest Service wanted to use 20-passenger de Havilland Twin Otter aircraft, which began production in 1966, to move crews around. So their decision was to cut the size of the crews to fit that airplane. There may have also been other reasons.

As a crew foreman at the time, I thought 20 people was too many to work together efficiently as one unit to dig line in most fuels, and a 10-person squad was too few. I felt that 13 to 14 crew members was the most efficient size to work together while digging line, which you would have with a 28 to 30-person crew broken into two squads, allowing for the Superintendent and lookouts. Those numbers can change in very light or very heavy fuels.

Pines Fire required 300 to be evacuated from camps near Wrightwood, California

(UPDATE at 7:40 a.m. PT, July 19, 2015)

Pines Fire
Pines Fire, InciWeb image posted July 18, 2015.

More than three-quarters of an inch of rain has helped firefighters make significant progress on the Pines Fire near Wrightwood, California. As of Saturday evening the Incident Management Team was still calling it 200 acres.

The evacuation of organization camps and campgrounds involving 300 people remains in effect. No Injuries have been reported and no structures are eminently threatened. Highway 2 is open but campgrounds remain closed.


(UPDATE at 11:36 a.m. PT, July 18, 2015)

Just before noon this morning the U.S. Forest Service released this little map of the Pines Fire near Wrightwood, California.

Map of Pines Fire USFS


(Originally published at 10:15 a.m. PT, July 18, 2015; updated at 10:56 a.m. July 18, 2015)

Pines-North Fires map
Map showing heat detected by a satellite on the Pines and North Fires at 11:15 p.m. PT, June 17, 2015. Very little heat was detected on the North Fire, possibly because light fuels, or vegetation, were present which was consumed quickly by the fire then cooled before the satellite passed overhead at 11:15 p.m. In contrast, the North Fire, about 2,000 feet higher in elevation, was burning in heavier fuels, including timber, which can continue to burn for hours, days, or weeks after the fire initially passes through. (click to enlarge)

While the North Fire that burned 22 vehicles trapped on Interstate 15 in southern California received most of the attention on Friday, another fire 10 miles to the west created some havoc as well. At 1 a.m. Saturday morning about 300 people, mostly children, in 11 organizational camps near Wrightwood had their sleep interrupted and were told to evacuate when the Pines Fire erupted nearby. About 130 of the evacuees were deaf or hearing impaired children.

The fire was reported at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Friday, July 17. As of the last update from the Angeles National Forest Saturday morning it has burned 200 acres near the Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2) north of Wrightwood in the Big Pines area. No injuries have been reported and no structures are threatened.

Pines Fire
A view of the Pines Fire from the command post. LA Co. Sheriff Dept. photo.

Overnight five aircraft worked the fire: one Angeles NF helicopter, one USFS air attack fixed wing, and three Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopters.

Some of the camps evacuated were Apple Tree, Lion, Verdugo, Peavin, and a Girl Scout Camp. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Station in Palmdale has established an evacuation center at Serrano High School in Phelin, 9292 Sheep Creek Road.