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Redmond Hotshot's crew truck on the Bear Gulch fire in Washington
When not on fire assignments, the crew performs project work such as prescribed burning and fuels reduction.
Living conditions while on assignments can be primitive. Hot meals, soft beds, and regular showers are not to be expected. Field assignments away from home can last several weeks with daily work shifts averaging 16 hours, but can extend up to 48 - 64 hours. Sleep deprivation is probable, as is routine exposure to dust, smoke, poison oak, extreme weather (both heat and cold) and other environmental hazards.
Hotshot vehicles become a home away from home during the peak of the season when Hotshots may rarely spend more than two consecutive days at their own station. These vehicles, also known as Buggies, Crummies, or simply the Box, carry Hotshots along with personal gear, tools, and everything else necessary to make the crew self-sufficient for several days.
A crew working a fireline in the Grapevine Pass in California.
A hotshot crew consists of 20-22 members. There are two national formats certified for hotshot crews.
The first format is:
One GS-9 Superintendent;
Two GS-8 Foremans, (also known as Captains, or Assistant Superintendents)
Two GS-6/7 Squad Leaders; and
Two - Three GS-5 Senior Firefighters.
Approximately thirteen GS-4 and/or GS-3 Temporary Firefighters.
The second format will have one GS-8 Foreman, and Three GS-6/7 Squad Leaders
In addition, Hotshots are assigned various other specialized roles within the crew. These specialties may include:
Medics - certified at the EMT-B level or higher.
Swampers and Sawyers - Usually considered a saw "team", the sawyers will take turns with one person using the chain saw to cut, and the other person pulling and throwing the cut material to the non-fire side of the handline. The teams usually trade tasks with each tank of fuel used in the chain saw. The reason for this is cutting with the saw and swamping are both physically exhausting, but in different ways, so trading tasks allows the team to do more work for longer. Also, operating the chainsaw is usually a more desirable task, compared to throwing brush and limbs, so trading tasks is more equitable.
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In order to effectively perform their duties, Hotshots must maintain a high level of physical fitness. Whenever they are not on a fire assignment, crews devote at least one hour a day to physical training (PT). This training can include steep hikes, weight lifting, and long-distance runs. Traditionally, 5-10 mile runs were the favored PT for Hotshot crews. Recently, there has been a shift towards more hiking. On these hikes, Hotshots may climb without stopping for over an hour while carrying upwards of 60 lbs. in gear and tools.
At a bare minimum, each Hotshot must complete a 3 mile hike carrying a 45 pound pack in under 45 minutes. Other minimum PT standards commonly adhered to are, 1 1/2 mile run in 10:35 or less, 25+ push-ups in 60 seconds, 40+ sit-ups in 60 seconds, and 7 pull-ups. These standards are an absolute minimum, and most Hotshots' capabilities far exceed those numbers.
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