Why The Heroic Work of Hotshot Crews Isn’t Getting Any Easier
For “Fire”, the lead essay in his 2001 book of the same name, Sebastian Junger interviewed many hotshot crews and even joined the ranks of one crew out of Oregon to learn about their jobs on the front lines of fighting forest fires:
Many hotshots I spoke with attributed the increasing danger of their job to severe drought conditions in the northern Rockies, as well as to decades of rigorous fire suppression. Both have contributed to a huge buildup of dead fuel in our nation’s forests—fuel that ordinarily would have been cleared out by the small fires that regularly flare up in an unmanaged ecosystem.
Later in the essay, Junger describes the hotshot camp routine while on the line:
[Spike camps] are established in a roadless area and supplied by helicopter with food, tools, and paper sleeping bags. According to Forest Service policy, hotshots should not be spiked out for more than two days in a row. One level less comfortable than a spike camp is a coyote camp, and hotshots are not universal in their love of coyote camps. Coyoteing, as its called, means dropping in exhaustion wherever you happen to be when it gets dark. Because hotshots have only their line packs when they fight fire, they are usually caught without food, sleeping bags, or extra clothes.