With fire season on the horizon, time is running out for the development of wildland firefighting teams that aim to infiltrate the forces of nature.
The Safford Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is organizing crew four – the members of which support the Hot Shot Type I crews – for the upcoming fire season in search of the cream of the crop among wildland firefighters.
“We are in a preliminary process and looking for the best and brightest minds in the surrounding area,” BLM Assistant Engine Module Leader R.J. Estes said.
Ranked just below the well-known Hot Shots, crew four is a hand crew that attacks fires from all angles, including before, after and during the fires of fire season, Estes said.
“Working on the front line allows the hand crew to see the tangible, immediate difference of their efforts in combating wildfires,” Estes said.
The main difference between the Hot Shots and crew four is that the Hot Shots have permanent housing and an 80-percent return of personnel, he said.
“We are also looking for a higher applicant pool than we’ve had in the past,” Estes said.
Crew four is formed temporarily each year with about 20 members, and they are quickly mobilized into the field in a militia – or soldier-like – style upon the emergency of a fire.
Most of the crew move on to other related careers, such as the Hot Shots, Estes said.
“Quite a few of our crew members – about 30 – have gone ahead to work with the Hot Shots,” Estes said.
Crew four is also responsible for preventative measures, such as constructing firelines – the removal of trees, brush and other common fuels that could feed a fire to a catastrophic size.
Shovels, chainsaws, axes and Pulaskis – a cross between a pick and an ax – are the common tools of the trade for this bracket of wildland firefighting.
“A Pulaski is a digger that breaks up the earth, which is very useful in constructing the handline,” Estes said.
Members of the crew will be expected to work in the heat for long hours, using the heavy-to-lightweight equipment in a rigorous style, Estes said.
“I’ve been tasked with running this crew, and I want to make sure we’re getting the kind of people we really need for this line of work,” Estes said.
BLM is accepting applications until April 30. Interested and qualified applicants can contact assistant fire management officer Lathe Evans or Estes at 928-348-4400.