Working on a Wildland Fire Hotshot Crew
When large wildland fires occur, hotshot crews are sent in to do battle with them. These specialized firefighters are organized in crews of between 20 and 25 members. The team may include members who are given specialized responsibilities,such as:
- Medics with EMT training
- Sawyers who are responsible for cutting through brush. This role is usually taken on by the most experienced members of the team.
- Swampers are the team members who move the brush out of the way after the sawyers have cut it.
- The hotshot crew also includes trained mechanics who are responsible for maintaining vehicles, water pumps, and other equipment that the crew uses when performing its duties.
In addition to responding to wildfire, the hotshot crew may also participate in search and rescue operations or form part of a disaster response team.
Thinning, habitat improvement, and making trails are part of the job in between being called out to fight fires.
When a hotshot crew is in the field, they can expect that working conditions will be rough, to say the least. A field assignment may last for a number of weeks, and during that time crew members may not be able to eat hot meals or have a chance to shower regularly. Sleeping in a soft bed is not part of the deal, either.
Instead, the average work day is 16 hours, although it is not uncommon for hotshot crew members to be up for shifts that last from 48-64 hours at a stretch. Not only are these firefighters sleep deprived while on the job, but they are exposed to extreme heat and cold, dust, smoke, insects and other hazardous conditions.
Everyone on a hotshot crew must be in great physical shape, and in between assignments, all members of the team spend at least one hour each day working out. Working out to a hotshot crew member doesn’t involve going to the gym. Instead, they go hiking, for long-distance runs, and lift weights. A hike for these professionals includes carrying a pack weighing 60 lbs. or more over heavy terrain.
The work is usually seasonal in nature, with employment from May to October. To get more information or to apply for a position, you can contact the hotshot crew you are interested in working with directly.