La Grande Interagency Hotshot Crew
The mission of the La Grande Interagency Hotshot Crew is to provide our public and cooperating agencies the highest level of service in wild land fire operations and suppression.
We are a diverse team of highly skilled and highly motivated professional fire managers. As a team we are dedicated to performing our jobs safely, effectively and positively.
We take pride in the service we provide and strive for excellence in our performance.
About the Crew
The La Grande Hotshot Crew is composed of 20 firefighters. The permanent crew members include a GS-9 Crew Superintendent, a GS-8 Crew Supervisor, and three PSE (permanent seasonal) GS-6 Squad Bosses and two or three PSE GS-5 Senior Firefighters.
The temporary employee crew members typically consist of approximately five GS-5 Lead Firefighters, six GS-4 Advanced Firefighters, and two GS-3 Firefighters. The GS-5 Lead Firefighters are typically Class C Fallers, EMT's, or CDL Commercial Drivers.
The crew typically starts mid-May and completes two weeks of training before being available to go on fires. The crew will typically run through mid-October.
Home base is the La Grande Airtanker Base located in La Grande, Oregon.
The La Grande Hotshots, and our sister crew, the Union Hotshots are the only two crews in the lower 48 states that share a common base.
The La Grande Interagency Hotshot Crew was first established on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest by the U.S. Forest Service in 1967 as the Wallowa-Whitman Inter-Regional Crew.
The Wallowa-Whitman Inter-Regional crew was a 25 person crew, and was located at Sled Springs Guard Station, approximately 20 miles north of Enterprise.
In 1978, the crew moved to La Grande and became known as the La Grande Interagency Hotshot Crew.
About the Job
The primary mission of the La Grande Interagency Hotshot Crew is to provide our public and cooperating agencies the highest level of service in wild land fire operations and suppression. Much of the job entails building hand line on out-of-control wildfires. As an Interagency Hotshot Crew, we are available nationally to respond to wildfires and other emergencies. We travel throughout the country and into Canada to do this.
As hotshots, we are given the difficult assignments, and are often on the front lines of complex fires, in adverse situations and at remote locations.
The La Grande Hotshots work safely through strict attention and compliance with LCES (Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, and Safety Zones); The 10 Standard Fire Orders; And The 18 Situations that Shout Watch out.
These are our standards, and they are the key to safely working day after day in potentially dangerous situations.
The job requires that we are physically and mentally fit for long hours of work in challenging situations.
Training and experience is crucial to accomplish our job in a safe, efficient manner.
There are no "normal" operations - every day is different, and it is unknown what the day will bring until after it's over. The day at home base usually starts with an hour of PT (physical training) which includes calisthenics, running, weights, etc.
If an assignment doesn't come up, project work is generally the order of the day. This can include building hand-line around prescribed burn units, burning those units, fuels inventories, recreational site projects, and various other tasks for the forest as needed.
Equipment maintenance is also an essential duty, especially if we've recently returned from a fire assignment.
Just as no day is a "typical day", no season is a "typical season". We average 10 to 20 fire assignments per season, with an average of somewhere around 60-80 days assigned to fires. During an average season, a crewmember working from May through October can typically earn around 600 to 700 hours of overtime. Extended seasons have gone over 100 days assigned to fires, and 800 to 1000 hours of overtime earned, but this is the exception - not the rule. Wet seasons have resulted in as few as 25 days assigned to fires, but again - this is the exception.
We are available for dispatch 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have a two-hour callback limit when we are off-duty. During the peak of fire season, it is common to be away from base on assignments for up to 21 days, return for two days of required R&R, and then be reassigned. Needless to say, when you are a hotshot during the summer that is about all you are.
Fire assignments often involve large, difficult fires. Fire camps are the norm at these fires, but it is common for us to be "spiked out" (remotely camped away from fire camp with few amenities) for several days at a time. During these spikes, hot meals are often flown in by helicopter, but we also eat our share of MRE's (military style packaged meals)
We usually travel in our crew "buggies" - 10 passenger trucks with storage for our gear. It is not uncommon for us to log 12,000 miles during a summer. On assignments far out of the area such as Alaska or Florida , we can be flown by jet.