Local U.S. Forest Service Hotshots crew ready for Fire Season

BUTTE FALLS, Ore. — There are thousands of firefighters across the country gearing up for this fire season, but only a select few are part of a special team called the Hotshots. There are around 100 crews in the nation, and one of them calls Southern Oregon home.

“I think we’re pretty quiet, there isn’t many times that you see a hotshot crew in front of a camera,” Rouge River Hotshot Superintendent Aaron Schuh said.

While some may have never heard of them, the hotshot crews are often the ones doing the most dangerous work.

“Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods,” Schuh said, but added their top priority is fighting wildfires. “When the bell rings or there’s a fire, that’s where we go.”

The 22 member Rogue River crew is part of Region Six, serving Oregon and Washington, but their assignments take them far beyond those borders.

“They range from being local, here, to being you know, as far away as wherever… Colorado… East coast, doesn’t matter,” Schuh said.

Schuh said sometimes their assignment involves a flight, but most of the time they’re driving. Schuh estimates the crew puts around 50- to 60,000 miles on their vehicles a year.

“We’re together from April to October,” Schuh said. “We more or less live in these trucks.”

While the hotshots are sometimes called away, they also fight fires here locally. Last year, they were busy all summer.

“We were on the Blanket Creek Fire,” Schuh said. “We went to the Milli fire out of Sisters, we went to the Jolly Mountain fire out of Washington, we ended up on the Chetco Bar finally at the end of the Summer.”

The crew works 14 days straight, up to 16 hours a day on an assignment. When they’re not on the fire lines, they’re still in the forest.

“Out here today, we’re just doing a project for the District that we work for and the forest that we work for, it’s a thinning project,” Schuh said.

Schuh noted the goal is to cut and burn the fire fuels before a wildland fire can start.

“The end result is to thin all these smaller trees that you see among the bigger conifers,” Schuh said. “And then eventually we’ll come in here and do a prescribed fire.”

But no matter what work they’re doing, the hotshots apply the same principals, and as the summer heats up, they have only one goal.

“Our motto’s you know, attitude and effort and having fun, and making hard work look easy,” Schuh said. “Doing what we can do to help suppress the fire, and put the fire out, and move on to the next one.”

The Rogue River Hotshots have already been down to New Mexico this Spring. The crew was helping support other fire staff in that area for an entire month.

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