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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wildfire Management: Hotshot Crews

Kelsi Bracmort Specialist in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

Wildfires can be unpredictable, with the severity and direction of the wildfire changing in a matter of moments. To ensure the safety and protection of life and property, response to a wildfire requires an array of resources including air and ground support.1 This report briefly discusses the role of hotshot crews for wildfire management.

Hotshot crews are intensively trained fire crews that are generally placed in the most rugged terrain on the most active and difficult areas on wildfires. The primary mission of an Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) is to provide a safe, professional, mobile and highly skilled hand crew for all phases of fire management and incident operations.
2 A crew typically consists of 20 members that have excelled at a variety of standards for IHC operations including physical fitness, operational preparedness training, and field exercises, and has a particular wildfire management experience level. General activities for an IHC may include fire line construction, fuel removal, and burnout operations, among other tasks. The crew may be deployed to any state where they are needed. The National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC) is the overarching federal agency charged with deployment of a crew.

There are 110 interagency Hotshot Crews, with the Forest Service being the federal agency with the largest number of crews (67).
4 The Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the National Park Service also have Interagency Hotshot Crews. There are a small number of crews that are nonfederal, including crews operated by states and local governments. All crews, federal and nonfederal, must meet the standard for interagency hotshot crew operations and be certified in order to be recognized as an IHC.5 As of July 1, 2013, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reports that 53 crews are working on incidents.

Similar to other wildfire management strategies, there are some concerns about IHCs including funding, oversight, and performance monitoring. The FS reports that funding for federal Interagency Hotshot Crews is allocated to the regions from the National Office of Fire and Aviation Management.
7 The Department of Interior reports that funding for Interagency Hotshot Crews is drawn from the preparedness program.8 IHC positions can be seasonal temporary positions, posing some to question the type of personnel benefits (e.g., health care, retirement)

Date of Report: July 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 4
Order Number: R43129
Price: $19.95

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