The Lassen Hotshots family. Photo submitted.

Lassen Hotshots celebrate 50 years of service Saturday

Anyone who’s had any experience with fires knows when you need firefighters you really need them. Desperately.

And when an angry, out-of-control wildfire erupts threatening life, limb and God only knows what else, who ya gonna call? Chances are pretty good the Lassen Hotshots will be among the first responders to step up and stare right into the face of that terrifying inferno.

These brave folks of Lassen Hotshots celebrate 50 years of service this Saturday with an informal Family Day at Riverside Park beginning at 10 a.m. According to the Hotshots, “Bring the whole family down to Riverside Park. There will be activities for kids and adults. We reserved the BBQ pits and softball field, so bring your family, your glove and something to grill. Bring your favorite pair of horseshoes or corn hole bags too, (weather permitting).”

After this family friendly day of fun and togetherness, the event moves to the Susanville Elks Lodge with a cocktail hour at 5 p.m. where members can crack a cold one and chat with fellow crew members, explore raffle items, look at old pictures or just share stories.

A banquet-style tri tip and chicken dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Following dinner, former Lassen Hotshots who are no longer with us will be recognized and the floor will be opened for stories.

According to the Hotshots, “This event is to celebrate the past 50 years of the Lassen Hotshots. So please come, grab a drink, share some stories and sit down at the Elks Lodge for dinner … There will be a raffle to benefit Diego Rivera, a former crew member who was struck by a fire weakened snag on the Six Rivers National Forest.”

Mike Rivas, a fire science instructor at Lassen Community College, praised the Lassen Hotshots are said they are vital to our firefighting efforts.

“The reputation of the Lassen Hotshots is stellar,” said Rivas, a retired fire captain. “Congratulations on 50 years. That’s awesome, really awesome. They’ve been around, and they’ve been proven. And believe me, if they didn’t carry their weight, they’d be gone by now. There’s no doubt about that.”

With a reduction in the number of inmate fire crews in California, Rivas said CalFire is now hiring full-time firefighters who someday may be good enough to follow in the Hotshots footsteps.

A little history
According to lassenhotshots.com, the Lassen Hotshots formed in the summer of 1974 at the Bogard Work Center on the Eagle Lake Ranger District of the Lassen National Forest. Due to a 1978 budget crisis, many hotshot crews shut down. The hotshot world refers to this day as “Black Friday.”

In April 1980, the Lassen Hotshots returned, and they were one of the first crews to travel to Alaska in the 1980s, and along with the El Dorado Hotshots, the first to fight fire internationally in Canada, exemplifing the hotshot work ethic of never quitting, always challenging yourself and those around you and by putting honesty, duty, respect and integrity above all else.

“The Lassen Hotshots are proud to be a part of the California Hotshot community,” the Hotshots report. “We continually strive for excellence and to uphold our interagency hotshot crew values.”

So, who are these Hotshots?
According to the U.S. Forest Service, Interagency Hotshot crews, commonly called Hotshots or Hotshot crews, are highly trained, specialized wildland fire handcrews that perform some of the most demanding and hazardous tasks in wildland firefighting. Their profession requires a high level of physical fitness and the ability to demonstrate:

  • Extensive knowledge of fire behavior with the ability to develop and implement strategy and tactics on the most complex incidents under extreme conditions.
  • A high aptitude for mitigating risk using exemplary situational awareness and outstanding communications skills.
  • Excellent leadership characteristics at all levels.

Their primary mission is to provide a safe, professional, mobile and highly skilled Type 1 handcrew status for all phases of fire management and incident operations.

The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, and State agencies sponsor more than  100 Interagency Hotshots Crews, mostly in the Western United States.

On average Hotshots spend more days on the fire line performing fire suppression activities than any other ground-based firefighting resource. They also perform and take lead on a wide variety of tasks. The duration and diversity of their firefighting experience, combined with the experienced IHC leadership, enhances the skills of crew members in every aspect of wildland fire management.

What do Hotshot crews do?
Interagency Hotshot Crews are assigned to the most challenging terrain and/or priority wildfire incidents throughout the country. Their primary task is to solve problems and implement strategies and tactics in a safe, effective and timely manner. The goal is to achieve host agency objectives during large fire suppression and other assignments.

IHCs construct fire line using chainsaws and an assortment of hand tools to remove vegetation and fuel to stop fire spread. Operational tempo, which can be explained as the speed by which they perform quality work, is paramount to success as wildland fire strategy and tactics are always limited by time.

IHCs are highly skilled in firing operations conducting simple to complex burnouts and backfires to stop fire spread and lower fire intensity near containment lines, reducing the chance of fire crossing containment lines and growing.

In a dynamic and dangerous environment IHCs are risk management professionals evaluating ever changing conditions and hazards. As a crew, they make sound and timely decisions to effectively mitigate identified hazards while they manage the safety of their personnel and other adjoining resources.

Go here for more information or to purchase a dinner ticket for the 50th anniversary celebration.