Hotshots break from one blaze to fight another

After battling the Coal Seam Fire and Million Fire for 14 days, the Craig Hotshots are off again today to fight the Spring Creek Fire.

Craig's Hotshots are one of 90 national, interagency 20-person crews that work to contain and control wildfires.

Stu Gore, the superintendent of the Craig Hotshots, said he anticipated the crew spending several days working on the Spring Creek Fire before being reassigned to another blaze.

"I won't know what we'll be up against until we get there," Gore said. "I've heard that we're needed for a burnout operation (burning off fuels in front of the fire), which makes me feel like they're getting closer to containment. We'll probably be there for a couple of days and then be up for grabs again. But I could be wrong."

Hotshot crews can only be assigned to14 consecutive days of work, after which they are required to take two days off.

Gore said, at this point in the

fire season, the crew is holding up well.

"They're doing really well," Gore said. "It's about pacing yourself, and that's always a concern. It may be our No. 1 concern how we are pacing ourselves to go the distance season wise. And then there's of course daily wise; looking at everyday safety concerns. But I think we'll do fine."

Gore said he is pleased with his crew's performance.

"They've done really, really well," he said. "We have a good crew. I'm lucky."

Hotshots are employed and affiliated with various agencies throughout the country, primarily with the state Forest Service. The Bureau of Land Management employs the Craig Hotshots.

BLM Little Snake Field Office Field Manager John Husband said the hotshot crews are dispatched according to national and regional multi-agency coordination groups.

"On a national scale, they figure out priorities for fires," Husband said. "And then at the regional level there is a multi-agency coordination group that regionally does the same thing. Then, with the fire situation like it is, we're actually doing it at this level."

The BLM Little Snake Field Office is also working with the 14-group, five-state Rocky Mountain Fire and Aviation Management Coalition, which manages fire resources, such as hotshots. The organization includes cooperating agencies, such as the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and the Office of Aircraft Services.

Husband said the BLM Little Snake Field Office is in an ongoing process of analyzing which fires merit what resources.

"If we get multiple fires going locally, which we've been on the edges of already, we have to get together as agency heads and determine what is our highest priority," Husband said. "So we can feed it to the regional multi-agency coordination. And through the Rocky Mountain Fire and Aviation center, they file those priorities when they're allocating who gets tankers and who gets crews because, you get in a situation like this, we've got more going on then we can cover with resources."

Husband said the BLM is also urging people to use caution during this time.

"Nationally, and regionally, resources are already stretched thin," Husband said. "The last thing we need is a human-caused fire. People need to be aware of how dry and explosive the fuels are."

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