Carson City hosts recruitment for new fire hot shots team |

Carson City hosts recruitment for new fire hot shots team

Jill Keller, Appeal Staff Writer

Northern Nevada American Indians are assembling an elite, full-time firefighting crew to help protect more than 930,000 acres of reservation lands, Bureau of Indian Affairs officials announced Tuesday.

Jacqueline Hawley of the Fire Management Office for BIA’s Carson City office, said a dedicated Hot Shot team may begin training in March.

“It’s a pretty exciting time for us here in Carson City,” Hawley said. “There is quite a bit of employment for our people here in Nevada.”

Northern Nevada has 350 trained emergency firefighters and 27 firefighting jobs open, Hawley said. Hot Shot crews undergo a higher level of training and are in high demand across the country, said Mike Wallace, assistant director of fire operations, based at BIA’s national headquarters in Boise, Idaho. Hot Shots are self-contained and mobile groups.

Once in operation, the crew can travel all over the country to assist federal and local fire agencies during emergencies, Wallace said.

Superintendent Ray Ruiz, manager of the Sycuan Fire Department Golden Eagles Handcrew, a hot shot crew based in southeast California near San Diego, presented a similar fire program to a gathering of BIA firefighting representatives in Carson City on Tuesday.

The Sycuan crew is one of five fully trained American Indian crews in the United States. In addition to Carson City , four other hot shot programs are being developed, Wallace said.

Ruiz described the work of his crew, made up of people from many American Indian nations who have been trained in wildland firefighting.

“We are a crew of many nations,” Ruiz said.

The goal of operating and developing these types of crews is to give American Indians opportunities for education, employment and skills they can use to find better jobs, Hawley said.

The Carson City crew will be a fully trained emergency fire crew with three to five full-time staff. The crew will be guaranteed 13 pay periods in the year and be paid seasonally.

“Our emphasis will be trying to keep crews working and keep them employed as long as we can,” Hawley said.

The team will become the elite fire crew for 11 reservations in Northern Nevada. During the off-time, the crew will perform duties in fire prevention at the reservations in Carson City, Fallon, McDermitt, Lovelock, Nixon, Reno, Winnemucca, Schurz, Gardnerville, Yerington and Austin.

The Sycuan crew works on fuels reduction, tree felling and other projects during the off season. The Sycuan program is entirely paid by the tribe and receives no federal funding at this point, Wallace said. The tribe operates the Sycuan Casino and Resort and stays funded by helping other tribes with fire suppression, Ruiz said.

— The Carson City bureau office is looking for a qualified management staff for the crew and people to fill the crew spots. For information, call 887-3521.