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Interagency Hotshot Crews

The Wyoming Hotshots walk in a line towards a sunset through a field.
The Wyoming Hotshots walk towards a sunset on one of the many fires they responded to in 2016. Photo by Kyle Miller

Interagency Hotshot crews (IHCs), 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.  

At night a wildland firefighter uses a drip torch to ignite the brush.
A hotshot during night operations on the Pine Gulch Fire, 2020. Photo by Kyle Miller 

What Do Hotshot Crews Do? 

Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHC) 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.

Hotshots dig fireline along a steep brush and tree covered slope.
Handline construction is one of the many tasks Hotshots are asked to do during wildfires. Photo by Kyle Miller

Becoming a Hotshot 

Becoming a Hotshot requires dedication, physical fitness, and commitment. Positions consist of full-time, permanent seasonal, and temporary employment.

Hotshot crews typically include 20-25 firefighters. Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crews provides 2 options for minimum configurations:  

Standard Interagency Hotshot Crew Staffing with two Minimum Personnel Configurations

Position DescriptionGradeCurrent TourRequired Qualifications#1 Minimum Configuration#2 Minimum Configuration
SuperintendentGS-462-9  Permanent Full-TimeTask Force Leader (TFLD), Incident Commander Type 4 (ICT4) and Firing Boss (FIRB)



Assistant Superintendent or CaptainGS-462-7/8  13/13 to 26/0Strike Team Leader - Crew (STCR) or Task Force Leader (TFLD). Both need Crew Boss (CRWB), and Incident Commander Type 4 (ICT4) too.



Squad LeaderGS-462-6/7  13/13 to 26/0Crew Boss (CRWB) and Incident Commander Type 5 (ICT5)



Senior FirefighterGS-462-4/5  13/13 to 26/0Fire Fighter Type 1 (FFT1)



Temporary FirefighterGS-462-3/4/5  1039 HoursFire Fighter Type 2 (FFT2)






The General Steps to Pursue a Career as a Hotshot include:

  1. Develop and maintain a high level of physical fitness. Hotshot crews work long hours doing strenuous work in challenging environments. Regular exercise, cardio training and strength conditioning are essential. All Hotshot crew members must be able to walk 3 miles with a 45-pound pack in under 45 minutes to pass the required arduous level pack test. Additionally, they should strive to meet the following fitness standards as outlined in the Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations

  • 1.5 mile run in a time of 10:35 or less

  • 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds

  • 25 push-ups in 60 seconds

  • Chin-ups, based on body weight:

    • More than 170 lbs. = 4 chin-ups

    • 135-170 lbs. = 5 chin-ups

    • 110-135 lbs. = 6 chin-ups

    • Less than 110 lbs. = 7 chin-ups

  1. Gain experience in firefighting or outdoor-related activities. Obtain National Wildfire Coordinating Group certifications. If you are new to wildland firefighting, consider joining volunteer fire departments, participating in community service projects, or working in forestry or land management. 

  2. To increase your odds of obtaining a position, reach out to the Hotshot crew you are interested in applying to in early August. Between early August and October both permanent and temporary employment outreaches with the vacancy announcements and timeframes to apply will be generated and can be shared with you. You can then apply online at USAJobs. Only apply to locations where you are willing to accept a position, if offered. 


A Brief History of Interagency Hotshot Crews  

Hotshot crews originated on the Cleveland and Angeles National Forests in Southern California in the late 1940s. They were called “Hotshot” crews because they worked on a wildfires’ hottest areas of wildfires.  

In 1948, the Los Padres Hotshot Crew was one of the first crews established. It still operates today, although its name has changed several times over the years. Several other crews across the country were founded between the 1950s - 1980s. 

In the 1990s an operations guide specific to Hotshots known as the Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations (SIHCO) was developed. This document is the governing requirement for Hotshot crews and standards for staffing, qualifications, and training, among other things. It is still the guiding document for minimum IHC requirements to this day. 

Overall, between all the wildland fire agencies, over 100 IHCs were founded across the country between the 1950s and early 2000s. 

To learn more read the Hotshot Crew History in America with individual crew stories,