LAKEVIEW, OR -- An Oregon wildland fire team is the newest certified Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) in the country. Traci Weaver, with the Bureau of Land Management, says it’s an elite status, "We rely on them to do really complex burnout operations, put in lines in difficult terrain; anything that’s really challenging, we rely on our Hotshot Crews for that, because of their level of training and experience."
But this group based in Lakeview is especially unique, "All of their recruiting is done through veterans, in recruiting veterans, and they’ve worked really hard to reach that elite status, if you will, of Interagency Hotshot Crew. It’s taken them two years, just focused on that; but they’ve been recruiting veterans since 2012." While other teams have members who are veterans, Weaver tells KBND News the Lakeview crew is the first to focus solely on vets, "This crew had a little bit unique start in that they were focused on veterans since 2012, and then have worked towards becoming a Hotshot Crew; rather than the other way around." She says veterans have skills and experience that make them uniquely qualified for the fire lines, "It’s a structured crew environment, they’re gone from home for long periods of time, they’re not in comfortable situations – they’re sleeping out in the dirt or in a tent for 14 days at a time. Veterans are already used to that sort of situation. And then, a lot of them, their combat experience – they have combat medical experience, which is huge out on the fire line."
There are 112 IHCs, nationwide; the Lakeview Veterans IHC is just the tenth to be funded through the BLM. The team recently received their certification allowing them to be deployed across the country, when and where needed.