Fire hotshot crews are making their way in from various locales to help fight fires currently burning in San Diego County. One such crew of 19 men and one woman took a lunch break near the Fallbrook/Temecula border and shared information with the newspaper. They had stopped for a break and were awaiting directions to which fire they were to report to.
Just two weeks after the start of their 40th anniversary season and just days after completing their early season training, the Plumas Interagency Hotshot Crew from the Quincy Ranger District in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains has arrived in the Southern California area to assist with fire-fighting duties at one of the six wildfires raging here in northern San Diego County.
The unit was established in 1974 as a division of the USDA Forest Service and the Helitack Module averages 75-100 responses a year throughout the country. Hotshot units bring a high level of fitness and expertise to wildfire management. The crews are highly mobile and trained to be self-sufficient with their own vehicles, gear and specialized fire-fighting tools.
Hotshots meet stringent requirements. These crews are specially trained to subsist on the line with bare essentials in steep, precipitous terrain with medium to extremely heavy brush and vegetation. They are frequently flown by helicopter to their front-line destinations and then are serviced with food, water, lights and blankets by helicopter. They typically work the toughest areas to head off fire advances, creating chains for other fire crews to manage.
The job is a dangerous one. Nineteen members of the Granite Hotshot Team were killed last year fighting the Yarnell Fire in Arizona as gusty winds created a swirling ring of fire that engulfed the men. According to the New York Daily News at the time, this was the greatest number of firefighters to perish in a wildfire in 80 years.
“We are anxious to go,” said one Hotshot, who modestly declined to be identified in print, “This is just the job we signed up to do and we hope to be an effective help here.” He did not know which of the six fires they were going to be assigned to work, but was anxious to get started. The group of twenty had stopped at an In-n-Out Burger in Temecula for a good meal before heading out to their as-yet-undetermined fire-fighting destination. “We’ll go wherever they need us.”