H-ARROYO GRANDE

Jul 1, 2013 7:50 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Hotshot firefighters face difficult conditions

Hotshot firefighters have one of the most dangerous jobs when it comes to firefighting.

They are an elite group of ground-based firefighters and are the first responders tasked with laying line and making essential fire breaks on the ground under enormous heat and pressure.

"If you can't get a fire engine or a bulldozer in there, you get a hand crew to cut fire line and cut hand line," said direfighter John Kaisersatt.

It's dirty and dangerous, but for these brave men and women, it's just another day at the office.

"We're ditch diggers essentially," said Kaisersatt.

As humble as they may be, their actions save lives.

Hotshot crews typically consist of around 20 veteran firefighters with a minimum of one fire season under their boots. They're also heavily trained in fire suppression tactics.

"You know what to do. You know your job," said firefighter Laura Barney. "You don't come into a crew like this just with basic knowledge."

Their physical endurance is unrivaled. When they aren't deployed, crews spend much of their time testing their limits.

"We do physical fitness training every day and prepare for the fires in the afternoon, typically," said Kaisersatt.

During fire season, crews can spend up to 14 straight days on the scene of a fire.

"There's been times definitely that you feel like you want to stop and relax, but that's why we train. You remember lives are on the line," said Barney.

Just before our day was done with the crews, a call came in.

"We're getting called out to the Deans Peak Fire, which is ten miles southeast of Kingman, Arizona," said firefighter David Dale.

In less than an hour, the crew is assembled for take-off.

While hundreds may be evacuating, these firefighters are running full speed into the blaze.

These elite units were formed in the 1940s in Southern California.

The term "hotshot" comes from the fact that they are deployed to the hottest parts of the fire.

According to the US Forrest Service, as of 2012, there are 107 hotshot crews throughout the nation.

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