“In the world of wildland firefighting today, the hotshot crews are similar to the Special Forces in the military,” said Dick Smith, a retired firefighter who spent 38 years fighting wildfires with the U.S. Forest Service. They’re highly trained and can meet the highest physical requirements. – Who are the hotshots? A Wildland Firefighting Premier by Nat Geo.
“In a firestorm, nothing is safe: sand turns to glass, metal runs like water, wood and human beings vanish into ash.” – Jason A. Romos Author of Smokejumper – A Memoir by One of America’s Most Select Airborne Firefighters
The first time I heard about the Hotshots and Smokejumpers was a few months ago. I texted an old friend who lives in Canada asking what he’s been up to. He said he was on a Helitack Crew training for fireseason. After learning about what he does for a living and seeing it’s a pretty sweet gig filled with adventure, challenge, and excitement, my intrigue spiked.
Earlier in the month I spoke to a good friend of mine in a SOF unit in the military and he said when he was going through selection, one of the guys was a former Smokejumper.
I’ve blogged a lot of cool and interesting things that blow my mind. Whether it was humans who travel across 1000 miles of open and vicious terrain with a pack of Snow Lions for one of the most badass races on the planet–The Iditarod, people who ride Tsunamis for fun–Big Wave Surfing – Mavericks/JAWS, and discussing the intelligence among fellow Earthlings–Octopuses are master escape artists, my conscience is continuously being humbled.
Which brings me to the topic today.
So you’re saying there are dudes (women are dudes too in this case and this is the only time I’m going to say it) who fly in helicopters, jump out of airplanes, use chainsaws, create fire lines and smack Mother Nature in her pretty Mother Nature face every single day while equipped with a massive grin that’s magnified by the whites of their teeth through dirt and smoke covering their entire bodies?! You’re goddamn right I am.
(Picture Credit @dryan406 on Instagram, Instagram for Smokejumpers)
Who would be cray cray enough to not only do this job for a living, but to do it for the love of the game? Love of the wild land firefighting game that is. Some guys become lawyers, others become nurses, some even have the audacity to start a blog and co-exist amongst these fire-breathers, Hotshots and Smokejumpers VOLUNTEER to fight forest fires. If that doesn’t take a mentality equated to taking on King Kong with nothing but a butterknife and a hardass outlook on the situation, then I don’t know what does.
While I’m sitting at my kitchen table in an AC cooled house sipping on some Starbucks Frappaccino’s like it ain’t no thang, these land-sharks are cutting down trees the size of small buildings as they stare down the unpredictable beast we call fire as it burns thousands of acres of land every single year. Out and about in 100+ degree heat in some of the most remote areas across the US (and globally but US is the frame for reference here).
Sweating their dicks off, covered in dirt, smoke, probably poison ivy, bugs, and every other nasty thing you find in the forest, as they shoulder small animals and Bambi to safety like a scene straight out of Commando
No one has confirmed whether this deed is enacted on a yearly basis, but nobody hasn’t either, therefore it must be fact.
Hotshots have teams all over the US that belong to the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, as well as smaller county and state units.
Hotshots deploy in 20-person teams as they create controlled fire-lines as a tactic to stop the fire from spreading. They are considered the elite units of wild land firefighting because of their physical fitness standards, stressful job assignments, and extensive training. They are specially trained in wildfire suppression.
They carry in all of their equipment on their backs so that should tell you that one needs to be in above average physical condition to compete. Drawing many similarities to special operations units in the military in terms of combatting and controlling stressful and dynamic situations.
When not battling fires, hot shot crews often work search & rescue missions and participate in disaster response. They are considered national assets and at times travel across the country when needed in support.
(Photo Credit: @RobbyGillespi91 on Instagram and us_hotshots on Instagram)
Is there anything more badass than that photo above? Mother Nature in the flesh, while taking a moment to pause during all the chaos and destruction to take a picture. The only picture I can think of off the top of my head that would be more badass is if an alien laser-beam plopped me out of my bed at night and into a floating spaceship with a front-row view above the middle of the ocean where hundred foot waves smashed against the bodies of two Sea Monsters having a Mano-e-Mano deathmatch in the pouring rain while I stood there staring in bewilderment. Then in a brief moment I turn around and smile like an idiot with a thumbs up and my new alien friend takes my picture.
Smokejumpers primary mission is to jump into dense terrain either already occupied by people’s homes or desolate rows of timber and other fire-starting materials. Smokejumpers basically do everything Hotshot crews do, except they jump out of planes. So with that added capability, they become a much needed asset to the wild land firefighting community. The majority of Smokejumpers were previously Hot Shots or worked in some firefighting capacity.
(YouTube: Lane Lamoreaux – McCall Smokejumpers)
How sweet is the firefighting gig though? Everybody loves firefighters and deservedly so. Being another first responder in America today is a certainty to get a first class ticket on the Hate Train, well at least according to the slimeballs on Twitter, follow me @TheAlbumWeb.
People hate cops until they need them. People hate soldiers and protest wars they fight. But firefighters? As dangerous and hazardous as the job is, whether running through burning buildings, skydiving out of airplanes, fighting Mother Nature, it earns my highest level of respect. They save babies and kittens from trees for Christ Sakes! An all around pretty sweet gig if you ask me…
Check out my Instagram @thealbumweb that is more of a continuation of the blog while including books, drinks and smaller things that aren’t blog worthy-esque