Veterans Become Hotshot Heroes

Veterans Become Hotshot Heroes

Veterans Become Hotshot Heroes

They were the heroes of firefights in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now a group of veterans have become Hotshot heroes — firefighters who take on wildfires in America’s wilderness areas. Think of them as the SEAL Team Six of the firefighting world, since there are only 112 such elite groups nationwide.

Now there’s a special group of Hotshots that’s been certified by the Bureau of Land Management — special because all the members are veterans. And they’re the first all-veteran force to become Hotshots.

They’re called the Lakeview Veterans Interagency Hotshot Crew, from Klamath Falls, OR. But even though they carry shovels and chainsaws rather than rifles, their military training applies to fighting a new enemy: wildland fire.

veterans hotshots

Credit: United States Forest Service [Public domain]

Chris Schott, a former Army Special Forces member and Afghan vet, put it this way:

“Being in a firefight is way different than being in a wildland fire, but both are mentally taxing. In a wildland fire, no one’s shooting at you, but conditions can go favorable to unfavorable very quickly.”

But these guys can take it. As Kenn Boles, who served in Iraq as a Marine, said:

“It’s like in combat — just because you’re hungry, tired and thirsty doesn’t mean the firefight stops.”

So do you wonder what it takes for these veterans to become Hotshots? Here are the Bureau of Land Management fitness requirements:

  • 1.5 mile run in a time of 10:35 or less
  • 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds
  • 25 pushups 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

That doesn’t even begin to touch the BLM’s standards for work ethic and leadership skills. However, the BLM has found that veterans can fit that bill, too. From their website:

“Military Veterans have the necessary skills for wildland firefighting, such as communication, team work, decisive leadership, risk mitigation and management, logistical abilities, and emergency medicine.”

And now a very distinguished group of veterans have become Hotshot heroes, the elite of the elite.

But it’s deadly work, too. Five years ago, in 2013, the Yarnell Hill Fire claimed the lives of 19 Hotshots. It was the biggest loss of firefighters since 9/11.

We congratulate the Lakeview Veterans as they become Hotshot heroes. They’ve proved their courage facing firefights in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now their courage is shining again in the American wilderness. Well done!


Featured image:


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Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

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