Craig Hotshots unveil new facilities Tuesday

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Kenny Lovell saws through a wooden ceremonial ribbon Tuesday morning at the newly constructed facility for the Craig Interagency Hotshots firefighters. The 7,000-square-foot building has been in the works since the Hotshots crew began in Craig in 2001, with construction beginning in August 2011. The crew hosted an open house following the ceremony, allowing the public to view the new building, which includes training rooms, a fitness area, a vehicle bay and more.

After battling fires for more than 20 years, Shawn Telford knows the virtue of patience and persistence on the job.

However, the seasoned firefighter was just as pleased as the rest of his crew to finally see the end result of a project more than decade in the making.

The Craig Interagency Hotshots welcomed the community into their new home Tuesday morning during a ceremonial ribbon cutting and open house to celebrate the group’s new facilities at 459 Center St.

Telford, superintendent of the Craig crew, was among those to speak at the event, noting the significance of the moment that had been building since the Hotshots began in Craig in 2001.

“It’s been an 11-year project to decide on the site, secure the funding and finally move into it,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work from everyone.”

After thanking fellow firefighters, the Bureau of Land Management and numerous community members and businesses involved in the effort, the ribbon cutting began with a whine of a chainsaw.

Hotshots crew member Kenny Lovell sliced through a specially made wooden placard, eschewing the traditional giant scissors and decorative red tape.

Lovell, a crew member since 2009, said it was an honor to be the one to officially christen the building.

“This is awesome because I haven’t had a facility where the offices weren’t made up of trailers,” Lovell laughed. “Now it’s an actual fire facility.”

The Hotshots’ former premises were located near Finley Lane, without an official building.

After procuring $3 million in federal money to get the project underway, construction began in August 2011 on the 7,000-square-foot structure, complete with office space, training rooms, a fitness room, a bay for vehicles, a cache for equipment and more.

“We were able to add in a welding room, too, which is really cool,” Telford said. “It’s amazing to have this all now because it’s a much more professional-looking outfit and a lot of good space to get the program going and we can get involved with national training.”

The site also includes a modular barracks for use by temporary crewmembers.

Telford said he hopes to have a more permanent building in the future, but the funds leftover from construction will go toward a parking lot.

Telford first started his career in firefighting in 1988 and has been superintendent of the Craig Hotshots since 2005. He will be assembling a crew for training sessions on April 23. In preparation for the season, 22 Hotshots — including Telford — will go through a week of classroom training and a week of fieldwork before going national in early May.

Hotshots crews must be ready to fight fires within the region they’re located as well as other areas “from Alaska to Florida,” officials said.

Lovell is originally from Montana and has worked with the Craig crew alongside firefighters from across the country.

“We’ve got guys from Texas, Florida, California, we pull from all over,” he said. “It’s an elite form of firefighting and people with experience are looking to get involved with it.”

Telford said crewmembers coming in for the new season include people new to the Hotshots experience but skilled in emergency situations, such as two war veterans wanting to join the effort, one of whom was a Navy Seal.

“Both of them, I think, will be a good fit for the program,” he said.

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