Contract videographer captures a slice of hotshot crew life on a fire

BLM video The Wild Land
Still image from BLM video, “The Wild Land”. Videography by Matt Irving.

In 2021, the Bureau of Land Management Craig Interagency Hotshot Crew was joined on a two-week assignment by a Bureau of Land Management Fire program contract videographer, Matt Irving. He was able to capture the crew while assigned to incidents in California and Montana.

BLM video The Wild Land
Still image from BLM video, “The Wild Land”. Videography by Matt Irving.

The videography is excellent and gives the viewer a small sample of what it is like to work on a hotshot crew. It is one of the best examples I have seen about the work being performed routinely by these public servants. Check it out, below.

This is a great example of why the federal land management agencies must emphasize the importance of assigning contract photographers and videographers to capture images of fires and the personnel who manage them. In these times of very challenging recruitment, this could be a small step toward encouraging potential applicants. Obviously the BLM recognizes its value. Here is how they described the video when it was posted on their Facebook page this week:

Looking for a #FireJob? Have you ever thought about applying for one of the 13 Bureau of Land Management’s Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHCs)? If so, take a moment to watch “The Wild Land” video by Matt Irving, as he followed the Bureau of Land Management – Colorado Craig IHC and hear about why they love working in The Wild Lands! #NotYourOrdinaryJob #WeAreBLMFire


Walk around a new BLM Type 3 heavy fire engine

It has integrated rollover protection.

New BLM Engine
New BLM Engine 6311. Image from Pierce video.

Pierce Manufacturing has produced a video walk around of the Bureau of Land Management’s Freightliner wildland fire Type 3 heavy fire engine, escorted by Scott Kiernan, Chief Engineer at Pierce. The apparatus is designed to carry 3,000 pounds of equipment, 800 gallons of water, and 20 gallons of foam. The rear-mounted pump is driven with a separate engine.

New BLM Engine 6311
New BLM Engine 6311, rear of cabin. Image from Pierce video.

Due to previous fatal rollovers, the BLM wanted a safe cab. The new engine is equipped with side roll protection and public service vehicle (PSV) seats. The roll cage maintains the cab structure in the event of a rollover crash. The vertical framework structure integrated into the body and subframe can withstand a 60,000 pound static load and will not deflect below the cab height in a crash.

On Nov. 24, 2021, the Bureau of Land Management announced that after another fatal rollover that killed two more Department of the Interior firefighters in 2016, they decided that rollover protection was needed. In 2021 they began retrofitting their heavy engines with rollover protection systems (ROPS) and have completed the installation in 14 trucks with a newly developed ROPS.


Chassis: Freightliner M2-106
Seating capacity: 5
Overall height: 10’ 10”
Overall length: 27’
GVW Rating: 40,000 lb
Front axle: Freightliner, 14,000 lb
Rear axle: Meritor RS, 26,000 lb
Engine: Cummins L9 350 hp
Safety: Side Roll Protection, Cage Roll ROPS

Material: Aluminum
Shelving: Adjustable up to 500 lb
Doors: Lap
Pump: Darley, 300 gpm
Tank: 800-gallon
Pump Panel: 36”
Foam: Waterous
Foam Cell: 20-gallon

BLM produces video about their fire management activities

BLM video fire management
Still image from the BLM video below.

Yesterday the Bureau of Land Management published a slickly-produced three-minute video that is an introduction to the wildland fire management activities of the agency.

The BLM’s description of the video:

“The BLM, a leader in wildland fire management, conducts a broad range of actions to protect the public, natural landscapes, wildlife habitat, recreational areas, and other values and resources. The agency’s national fire and aviation program, BLM Fire, which focuses on public safety as its top priority, consists of fire suppression, preparedness, predictive services, vegetative fuels management, community assistance and protection, and fire prevention through education. To meet its wildland fire-related challenges, the BLM fields highly trained professional firefighters and managers who are committed to managing fire in the most effective and efficient manner.”

BLM recruitment video says you will “have the time of your life”

Advertises jobs as “firefighter”, which is not accurate

3:30 p.m. MDT April 7, 2021

BLM firefighter recruitment

The Bureau of Land Management released yesterday a two-minute video that supposedly answers questions, including, “Should I apply to be a wildland firefighter with the BLM?” This is at best, misleading, since most if not all of their employees that do fight fire work under job titles of “Forestry Technician” or “Range Technician”.

Besides the “Should I apply” question, the video addresses others, such as:

  • “I don’t know, it seems kind of boring. And not fun at all.
  • “What if I get dirty?
  • “What would I do in my free time?”

Our take

The federal land management agencies that hire employees with a primary function of fighting fire put most of them in positions with job titles of Forestry Technician or Range Technician. It is deceptive advertising to publish documents or videos stating that you can be a “firefighter” with their agency.

The Federal Trade Commission Act prohibits advertising that is likely to mislead consumers and affect consumers’ behavior or decisions about the product or service.

If an advertiser under the Federal Trade Commission’s jurisdiction is advertising a product that does not comply with the law, violators could face enforcement actions or civil lawsuits with fines up to $43,792 per violation, or civil penalties up to $40,654 per violation.

In the case of the BLM encouraging the public to apply for firefighting jobs, the solution is to do the morally and ethically right thing — accurately describe the positions these employees would be working under. In the longer term, change their job descriptions from Range or Forestry Technicians, to Firefighter.

And, let them earn a living wage that is commensurate with the work they do, and is competitive in the firefighting community.

We have reached out to the BLM about this issue. If we hear back, we will update this article.

An introduction to the BLM’s 19 hand crews

Long Draw Fire
Long Draw Fire in Oregon. Photo by Kevin Abel, BLM.

By Steve Shaw, BLM Fire Operations

The perfect harmony of 20 souls. Each one with just a bit more sweat and grit as the one before. The simple gratification of achievement, thanks only to the will and power of heart, mind and muscle.

The Bureau of Land Management Fire hand crew program consists of 19 crews spread across BLM’s diverse landscape, from Fairbanks, Alaska to Bakersfield, California, to Worland, Wyoming, and to Jackson, Mississippi. Each location offers hand crew members endless opportunities for professional and personal growth along with direct access to some of the best recreation on the planet. The hand crew program consists of Interagency Hotshot Crews, or IHC, and the only federal hand crews specifically established to provide opportunities for our nation’s military veterans.

The 2021 fire year starts in Jackson, Mississippi with the Jackson Interagency Hotshots. Established in 1997, the crew is the BLM’s first and only wildland fire resource east of the Mississippi River, with a mission that includes providing employment opportunities for students at historic black colleges and universities. The Jackson IHC typically spends the first half of the fire year in the eastern states assisting interagency partners with prescribed fire and wildland fire suppression. The latter half of the year, Jackson makes the annual trek west to join western firefighting forces for the normal peak of the fire year.

Silver State Interagency Hotshot Crew
Silver State Interagency Hotshot Crew igniting the 2016 Airport Road South Prescribed Fire in Nevada. BLM photo.

Interagency Hotshot Crews are some of the nation’s most highly trained, experienced, and physically conditioned wildland firefighting resources. The first IHCs were established in southern California in the 1940s by the USDA Forest Service and have since multiplied to near 110 total crews between all federal agencies and three IHCs hosted by Utah and Alaska. All IHCs meet the requirements found in the Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations. BLM’s IHC program began in the late 70s with the Silver State IHC in Nevada. Silver State’s home base and fire station is tucked on the east slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, just south of Carson City. The Silver State fire station was built in 2012, purposely designed and constructed to house the diverse gear, equipment, and employees assigned to IHCs. Additional IHC hand crews with purpose-built IHC fire stations are the Diamond Mountain IHC in Susanville, California, Ruby Mountain IHC in Elko, Nevada, Craig IHC in Colorado, and Snake River IHC in Pocatello, Idaho.

In southern Arizona, BLM’s newest hand crew, the Aravaipa Veteran IHC, also begins the annual fire year in March. Joined by Lakeview Veterans IHC in Klamath Falls, Oregon, they comprise the only two hotshot crews that blend traditional IHC traditions with an environment and atmosphere for military veterans. The two hand crews meet all IHC standards but add a mission that strives to be comprised completely of veterans. Aravaipa’s home base is uniquely situated on the Fort Huachuca U.S. Army Installation in Sierra Vista, a location that benefits both the Army and the BLM.

Devils Canyon Veteran Hand Crew
Devils Canyon Veteran Hand Crew in 2017. Photo by Bryan Nealy, BLM.

The BLM Veteran hand crew program began in 2012 with the establishment of the Vegas Valley Hand Crew in Las Vegas, stationed in the picturesque Red Rocks National Conservation Area. Like all BLM hand crews, Vegas Valley spends the summer months crisscrossing the western states in a fleet of specially designed wildland fire vehicles. The fleet includes two pickup trucks and two custom built crew carriers, designed by the National Fire Equipment Program at NIFC. The crew carriers become the adhoc home for each crew member, each with a specific seat and window to thousands of miles of the country. The BLM Veteran hand crew program also includes the Folsom Lake Veteran Hand Crew in Placerville, California, Medford and Spokane Hand Crews in Oregon/Washington, Montana’s Billings Hand Crew, and Devils Canyon Hand Crew in Worland, Wyoming. While all hand crews meets the same National Wildfire Coordinating Group, or NWCG, standards, each one brings their own diverse skillsets, specialties, and traditions.

As the fire year trends towards the hottest months, the remaining BLM IHCs begin their fire year in early May. Joining the above mentioned IHCs are the Kern Valley IHC in Bakersfield, California, Vale IHC in Oregon, and Bonneville IHC in Salt Lake City, Utah. The two remaining BLM IHCs are jointly stationed in Fairbanks, Alaska. The Midnight Sun and Chena IHCs were established in 1985, both hosted by the BLM Alaska Fire Service. Both IHCs spend the first half of the fire year suppressing wildfires across the Last Frontier. These IHCs commonly travel via airplane and helicopter through the Alaskan tundra and spend up to 21 days in remote fire camps. Summer rains in Alaska see both IHCs fly to the “Lower 48” and retrieve crew vehicles at NIFC before joining summer firefighting efforts.

BLM Jackson Interagency Hotshot Crew
The BLM Jackson Interagency Hotshot Crew at the 2018 Spring Creek Fire near Blanca, Colorado. Photo by Jamie Schnick, BLM.

BLM hand crews find closure in October with seasonal employees embarking on well deserved time off and permanent employees starting the annual refurbishing of gear and equipment and starting planning and hiring for the next fire year. The application period for crew member positions begins in early fall, with most selections made in February. Permanent hand crew positions are rare and are advertised on

Whether a single fire year or an entire career, BLM’s hand crews provide much more than a modest paycheck. The real value lives in the lifelong memories, friendships, and sweat soaked footsteps across some of the most remote and stunning corners of our beautiful planet.

For more information visit to learn more about #FireJob opportunities. It’s #NotYourOrdinaryJob.

BLM Folsom Lake Veteran Hand Crew
Photo by the BLM Folsom Lake Veteran Hand Crew in 2016.

Note from Bill: The title of the article was edited to correctly indicate that not all of the BLM crews are Interagency Hotshot Crews.

Environmental groups sue BLM over plans to construct 11,000 miles of fuel breaks

The projects would be in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah

BLM Fuelbreak Map

Environmentalists have filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S government to block plans to build up to 11,000 miles of fuel breaks they contend would violate the Endangered Species Act in a misguided effort to slow the advance of wildfires in six Western states, the Associated Press reported.

On February 14, 2020 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Fuel Breaks in the Great Basin. It outlines the construction and maintenance of a system of up to 11,000 miles of fuel breaks within a 223 million acre area to aid in the control of wildfires in portions of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, and Utah.

The Preferred Alternative outlined in the PEIS analyzes manual, chemical and mechanical treatments, including prescribed fire, seeding, and targeted grazing to construct and maintain a system of fuel breaks. These treatments would be implemented along roads and rights-of-way on BLM-administered lands to minimize new disturbance and wildlife habitat fragmentation and to maximize accessibility for wildland firefighters.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kelly.