In the wake of the tragedy in which 19 “hotshot” firefighters lost their lives fighting a wildfire in the hills of Arizona in June 2013, I, like many people, was left with questions. The first one, I’ll admit, was: “What’s a hotshot?” Perhaps because I’ve lived in Boston my entire life, I had never heard of this particular type of wildland firefighter. However, a little research showed me that these are tough men and women after my own heart.
Interagency Hotshot Crews, or IHC, are elite teams of firefighters who battle some of the most dangerous and remote wildfires in the country. While they generally start out on regular engine crews or hand crews, hotshots progress to the elite echelon of their field by showing a high level of ability and dependability. If I had to relate it to my own professional background, I’d say it’s the difference between a squad of police officers and a SWAT team.
Hotshots put in long hours under hazardous conditions. The work is physically demanding and tedious, and the heat of the summer sun is only compounded by the fire threat. Dehydration is a constant combatant. Crews often spend weeks living out of tents or makeshift fire camps, all for about the same earnings of your local firefighter.
Hotshots aren’t in it for the money, though. They do it for the challenge, the adventure, and the experience of a lifetime. They do it because they the love the hard work, they love the great outdoors, and they thrive on the feeling of camaraderie only felt on an elite team.
These are strong people, and they build that strength by hard work out in the real world. Read on to see if you have what it takes to carry their canteens.