Redding Hotshots Gather For 50th Anniversary Reunion

  • By Deborah Carlisi, Forestry Recreation Technician, Fire and Aviation Management, Pacific Southwest Region
A group of men and women pose for the camera as former Hotshot leaders. A view of the banquet hall at the Redding Hotshots 50th reunion. A group of men and women pose for the camera as former Hotshot leaders. A group of men and women pose for the camera as former Hotshot leaders. A group of men and women pose for the camera as former Hotshot leaders.

The Redding Hotshots hosted their 50th anniversary reunion Nov. 4-5 in Redding, California. More than 125 alumni of the program gathered at a banquet hall to celebrate and share memories of their time on the crew. Most attendees spent the evening looking for old crew mates for a chance to shake hands and reconnect.

Crewmembers representing four generations of crew superintendents came to celebrate. In attendance was Charlie Caldwell, who organized the first Redding Hotshot crew in 1967 and served as superintendent until 1986. Forty-one of his former crewmembers joined him at the reunion. Craig “Lanky” Lechleiter, who followed Caldwell as superintendent from 1986 to 2002, had 26 crewmembers also at the reunion. Rob Holt, who was promoted from captain to superintendent in 2002 and served until 2010, was not in attendance but 28 of his crewmembers showed to represent his tenure.

Current crew superintendent, Dan Mallia, has some big shoes to fill following Caldwell, Lechleiter and Holt. Fifty-one crewmembers who had served under Mallia’s leadership came to celebrate their contributions to the crew.

“We’re proud of the legacy we have in the Redding Hotshot program and I look forward to continuing a culture of excellence in leadership when it comes to training wildland firefighters,” Mallia said.

The Redding Hotshots’ mission is to provide concentrated fireline leadership development training. Crew members are selected from a pool of current wildland firefighters looking for career advancement. During a one season residency firefighters participate in classroom and field training to learn how to operate as an elite Hotshot crew. Hotshots are highly specialized 20 person wildland firefighting crews that work and train together over 40 hours a week. Hotshots are highly skilled individually and as a collective. They are the boots on the ground, taking care of the very hot, very active, head of the fire in wildland fire situations. A crew, which is organized into squads, can be reconfigured into smaller groups; each possessing ample leadership, chainsaw proficiency, and fireline construction capability.

Since its conception Redding Hotshot members have responded to wildfires not only in California but in multiple locations throughout the U.S. to include Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota and Wyoming. They have served on fires in Canada and also assisted in hurricane relief efforts. During their 50 years on hundreds of fires only two members have lost their lives in the line of duty. William Wales and Ronald Scott were killed while being transported to the Fork Fire on the Angeles National Forest, Sept. 28, 1970. Read more about this tragic event and always remember those we have lost.

After a summer based in Redding, graduates of the program return to their home stations with increased self-confidence and leadership abilities, enhancing opportunities for career progression. Many former crewmembers have gone on to hold important leadership roles and positions in the U.S. Forest Service and within the wildland firefighting community.

The Redding Hotshots’ base is co-located within the Northern California Service Center near the Redding Municipal Airport. Many fire resources; aircraft, engines, crews, and supplies are mobilized from the Redding base during the long California fire season. Redding is centrally located to the northern half of the state and allows resources to be easily deployed to California’s 18 national forests.

More photos from the event can be found here.

Group photo of all attendees of the Redding Hotshots 50th reunion.

Group photo of all attendees of the Redding Hotshots 50th reunion.