Smokey Bear Hotshots of Ruidoso, New Mexico, help fight Possum Kingdom fires 18 APR 11

The Fire Weather Watch is on again for us today and tomorrow. The temperatures are to be in the 90s today with humidity levels dropping to single digits. The winds are forecast to be at 20-25 m.p.h. this afternoon. At last count, 1,200 firefighters are trying to retard the Palo Pinto-PK Fires and other spots in a ten-county area.

Here at our place, I am again prepared for evacuation although the fires are north of us some fifteen miles or so and the winds are prevailing from the south.  Our county and several counties south of us are in the Fire Weather Watch, however, so if a fire breaks out south of Flying Hat, we’ll have to be vigilant and take action.

* * *

The Smokey Bear Hotshots of Ruidoso, New Mexico, have sent their crew to the Palo Pinto-PK East Fires.

Brenda reported that she saw the trucks and equipment on Saturday on I-20 near Abilene, speeding to the complex of fires in our area.

News reports this morning state that the original fire was started by a campfire in the Possum Kingdom Lake vicinity.  Warnings had been posted against campfires.  Fire bans have been activated for several months in west-central Texas.

In addition to the tragic death of a firefighter near Gorman, Texas, ninety head of cattle died from this fire event in the last few days.  In most cases, ranchers cut their fences or drag them down to let the cattle drift and round them up later.  Too often, the fire spreads so fast that cutting fences is impossible.

On the last resort list of behaviors, I would cut fences and round-up later.



A hotshot crew consists of 20-22 members. There are two national formats certified for hotshot crews.

The first format is:

  • One GS-9 Superintendent;
  • Two GS-8 Foremans, (also known as Captains, or Assistant Superintendents)
  • Two GS-6/7 Squad Leaders;
  • Two – Four GS-5 Senior Firefighters; and
  • Approximately twelve GS-4 and/or GS-3 Temporary Firefighters.

The second format is

  • One GS-9 Superintendent;
  • One GS-8 Assistant Superintendents;
  • Three GS-6/7 Squad Leaders;
  • Three GS-5 Senior Firefighters; and
  • Approximately twelve GS-4 and/or GS-3 Temporary Firefighters.

In addition, crewmembers are assigned various other specialized roles within the crew structure. These specialties may include:

  • Medic – certified as First Responders, Wilderness First Responders, Emergency Medical Technician-level B or higher.
  • Helicopter Crewmember (HECM) – responsible for manifesting and packaging crew supplies and equipment into “sling-loads” for transport by helicopter long-line into and out of remote locations.
  • Faller – Highly skilled chainsaw operators that specialize in the safe falling of hazardous snags and burning or damaged trees.
  • Saw Team – Consisting of one Sawyer and one “Swamper”; The Sawyer will use a chain saw to cut brush and woody material away from the fires edge while the Swamper pulls and throws the cut material to the non-fire side of the fireline. These teams sometimes trade tasks with each tank of fuel used in the chain saw. The reason for this being that both cutting with the saw and swamping are both physically exhausting, but in different ways, therefore, trading tasks allows the team to do more work for longer. Also, operating the chainsaw is usually a more desirable task, compared to throwing brush and limbs, so trading tasks is more equitable.

(Wikipedia description)



Filed under Wildfire

6 responses to “Smokey Bear Hotshots of Ruidoso, New Mexico, help fight Possum Kingdom fires 18 APR 11

  1. That’s absolutely nasty fire weather! I’m glad you have prepared as you have!

  2. Kittie Howard

    Your area was in the national news again last night. These fires are a nasty situation. It seems like you’re as prepared as one can be in case the fires get closer. Thanks you for laying out the crews and responsibilities. I’d wondered how they were organized. Stay safe!

    • Kittie, we’re doing the best we can. Farther north, about fifteen miles, they are having a dickens of a time. Can’t get a hold on the spread and there’s more fuel out there.

  3. You are well prepared Jack. Let’s hope the weather takes a turn for the better and all of the fires get put out. This has been a harrowing experience for all of you in this part of Texas. We’re all thinking of you!

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