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Q and A with a Hotshot

Q and A with a Hotshot

Protectors of the Forest - #8 of 21

Q&A WITH A HOTSHOT

JEREMIAH COKE
Squad Leader with a hotshot crew in the Pacific Northwest.
Age: 36
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

Publish Date
July 26, 2019

Smokey
Bear

75 Years of Vigilance

Celebrate this momentous anniversary with limited-edition Smokey gear.

SHOP THE COLLECTION

Help Protect the Forests

Donate to the NFF

Become a Wildland Firefighter

Learn How

The Chainsaw

The Chainsaw

Protectors of the Forest - #16 of 21

THE CHAINSAW

The single most important invention affecting logging was the chainsaw of 1935. Although it was not invented in Oregon, it was perfected there in 1947 by lumberjack Joseph Cox. While chopping firewood one chilly autumn day in 1946, Cox paused for a moment to examine the curious activity in a tree stump. A timber beetle larva the size of a man’s forefinger was easily chewing its way through sound timber, going both across and through the wood grain at will.

Cox was an experienced operator of the gas-powered saws used in those days, but the cutting chain was the problem. It required a great deal of filing and maintenance time. According to Cox “I ...

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Jump Training

Jump Training

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Inside the Fire Lab

Inside the Fire Lab

Protectors of the Forest - #4 of 21

- Story by JAYME MOYE -

Jason Forthofer watches the small circle of flames swirl upward into a vortex twelve feet tall, a phenomenon known as a fire whirl. In the forest, the occurrence can be deadly to wildland firefighters. On July 26, 2018, during the Carr Fire near Redding, California, a fire whirl emerged with tornado-like proportions—a circumference of 1,000 feet and wind speeds of 165mph—and overran and killed a veteran firefighter. But Forthofer doesn’t appear concerned. His fire whirl is ensconced in a large glass cylinder within a four-story tall metal warehouse known as the Burn Chamber at the Fire Sciences Laboratory in Missoula, Montana.

The U.S....

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Malheur Rappel Crew

Malheur Rappel Crew

Protectors of the Forest - #9 of 21

MALHEUR RAPPEL CREW

Lightning strikes in a remote area of the country, sparking a fire miles from any road. It may take hours for a traditional wildland fire crew to reach the location, allowing the fire to spread unchecked. The Malheur Rappel Crew springs into action. Helitack crews assemble, scramble aircraft to the fire area and rappel into the wilderness to battle the blaze. Before they descend “off the skids,” they have already scouted access and escape routes from the air.

On the ground, they create fire breaks, clear out combustible fuels, and guide air support to direct water and fire suppression chemicals to the most critical spots. After 24-48 exhau...

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Barb Whiteman

Barb Whiteman

Protectors of the Forest - #10 of 21

BARB WHITEMAN

A life dedicated to fighting wildland fires

Barb grew up on the Crow Indian Reservation in Eastern Montana. When she was not in school, she spent untold hours roaming the Big Horn Mountains near her home hunting, fishing, or camping. So, when she decided to take a seasonal job with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) during a college break, it seemed like a natural way to make some extra money, but it would end up changing her life.

It’s been thirty-one years since that summer job, and for the last twenty-seven years she has been fighting fires for various government agencies. From her beginnings as a NFS field firefighter, to her time on a Hot Shot ...

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Phoenix Crew 1

Phoenix Crew 1

Protectors of the Forest - #3 of 21

- Story by Hudson Lindberger -

MEET ONE OF THE MOST UNIQUE TEAMS PARTNERING WITH THE USFS — AN ARIZONA FIRE CREW MADE PRIMARILY OF POST-RELEASE INMATES.

The dust thrown up from their trucks is just starting to settle as all twenty members of Phoenix Crew 1 jump out of their vehicles into the dry, parched landscape.

Their arrival has transformed this normally quiet stretch of high desert into one teeming with activity. This Type 2-IA (initial attack) fire crew is the first line of defense in a wildland fire. From the lead truck, Superintendent Jeff Gallivan is radioing information back to base about the conditions. His assistant, Clint Kelley, is headed off tow...

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Filson and the Forest Service

Filson and the Forest Service

Protectors of the Forest - #21 of 21

FILSON & THE
 FOREST SERVICE

BECAUSE OF OUR SHARED HISTORY in the wildlands of America and mutual need for tough gear in remote places, Filson and the U.S. Forest Service have been likely partners since we were both founded (1897 and 1905, respectively). As the Klondike Gold Rush ended, Filson found new customers in the loggers and workers of the Pacific Northwest, many of whom would become or were members of the Forest Service.

Dressed in logger boots, Filson water repellant pants and jackets, woolen underwear and sox, (plenty of extra sox) we moved out.
- Excerpt from “The Ranger in Charge” by W.K. “Bill” Samsel for the U.S. Forest Service

As early as the 1920s, and continuing to this day, Filson products became accepted by workers as de facto Forest Service uniform wear because of their performance in the field. Unadorned with any official patches or insignia, Forest Service workers chose the best gear for the job—and that happened to be Filson. From the 1950s through the 1990s, Filson was contracted to produce official uniforms for Forest Service personnel.

Publish Date
July 26, 2019

Smokey
Bear

75 Years of Vigilance

Celebrate this momentous anniversary with limited-edition Smokey gear.

SHOP THE COLLECTION

Help Protect the Forests

Donate to the NFF

Become a Wildland Firefighter

Learn How

How to Pack your Line Gear

How to Pack your Line Gear

Protectors of the Forest - #13 of 21

HOW TO PACK YOUR LINE GEAR

When you’re on a fire line, everything that matters is on your back. You may be required to haul 70 lbs. in and out of a remote spot. How you pack is as important as what you pack. Proper pack fit is crucial—the waist belt should ride just above your beltline, with the hips bearing the majority of the load.

For a stable, balanced pack:

  • Center heaviest items closest to your back
  • Organize gear in pouches
  • Distribute weight evenly side-to-side
  • Use pack’s stabilizer straps to pull weight into the hips

Gear to include in addition to mission-specific items:

  • Canteens
  • Headlamp & spare batteries
  • Compass Rain jacket & insulating layer
  • Watch cap or b...

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History of the de Havilland Beaver

History of the de Havilland Beaver


This work-horse of an aircraft has earned a reputation as one of the most capable bush planes ever built, and it was easy to see why as we flew out over the ocean and through island valleys in the remote stretches of the Kodiak archipelago.

Willy’s grin crept out from behind his distinctively Alaskan mustache as he turned to face us, “you boys ready to go flying?” Our headsets crackled to life and we shared off-color jokes as we taxied away from dock and made plans to fly out to a distant beach on the other side of Kodiak. The engine roared and the pattern of the spray from the floats felt familiar, like the spray from the hull of an aluminum boat hung with too much motor skipping across a sm...

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