Union Interagency Hotshot Crew
Union Interagency Hotshot Crew will accomplish all assignments with Integrity, Leadership, Respect and Safe Practices.
The purpose of the Union Interagency Hotshot Crew is to provide a safe, professional and highly skilled 20 person hand crew for all phases of wildland fire suppression. Union Hotshots will perform quality work; from building hotline to mopping-up, under some extreme firefighting conditions.
About the Crew and Our History
The Union Interagency Hotshot Crew was started on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest by the U.S. Forest Service in 1980. We are one link in the chain of more than 60 National Interagency Hotshot Crews.
Located in the city of La Grande, Oregon; the Union Hotshots and our sister crew the La Grande Hotshots are the only crews in the lower 48 states that share a common base. These crews are situated in the heart of fire country, able to respond rapidly to incidents in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Basin and throughout the United States and Canada.
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.
About the Job
The rigors of Hotshot Crew Life demand that an individual be in top physical and mental condition. Crews are often called upon to work with minimal support for many days in isolated areas under hazardous environmental conditions. Individuals must main a positive attitude in order to overcome the arduous nature of this demanding job.
As an Interagency Hotshot Crew, the crew is available nationally to respond to wildfires and other emergencies. We travel throughout the country and into Canada to do this.
The Union 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. Additionally 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" - ten 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.