Protectors of the Forest - #8 of 21
Q&A WITH A HOTSHOT
Squad Leader with a hotshot crew in the Pacific Northwest.
Years in Fire: 17
Years on a Hotshot Crew: 11
Question: If you could give some advice to someone who wants to become a Hotshot what would that be?
“My advice for someone wanting to be a hotshot would be simple. Show up ready to push yourself past your own mental barriers. Be ready to put the crew before yourself. Too often we see new people show up, and when things get hard they quit on themselves, and they quit on us.”
Question: As a Hotshot of so many years, I’m sure you’ve got some pretty harrowing stories, could you tell me about one that really sticks in your mind? (Tree coming down, sketchy burnout ops, helicopter rides, etc. etc.)
“In 2011, the crew was on the Las Conchas fire in New Mexico when we received a pretty standard assignment to burnout off a dozer line. We start this burnout and it's goes off without a hitch, things are burning hot but winds are in our favor. As we burned, a thunder cell built over the fire incredibly quickly, then it collapsed. Crazy winds started throwing embers across the line, and a fire whirl whipped up and split the crew in half. Six of us couldn’t make it back to the rigs and had to head up the line to a safety zone. When we got there, the wind was so strong that you couldn’t talk without getting a mouthful of dust and debris. We all worked quick to put out spot fire after spot fire on the edge of the safety zone. After awhile, I realized we were going to be okay and everyone calmed down. In 17 years, that was probably one of scariest things I’ve seen in fire.”
Question: What’s your favorite part about the job? What keeps you coming back?
“Without a doubt, my favorite part of this job is the people on my crew. I come from a big family and always played sports growing up, I enjoy that environment. Every year I watch twenty individuals become one team working for a common goal, working for each other and not just for themselves.”
Question: It seems like it might be tough to balance family life with work, being gone for six months at a time like you guys are? Is that worth it? Why do guys do it?
“It is hard. You’re living two lives with two different families that need you to be mentally engaged and emotionally invested. You’ve got to find a way to make the family you are leaving at home feel needed and make sure they know how much they mean to you… Is it worth it? I guess that’s for my children to decide. Will they see me as a father who sacrificed for them or a man who wasn’t there?”
STORY: SAM AVERETT
July 26, 2019
75 Years of Vigilance
Celebrate this momentous anniversary with limited-edition Smokey gear.