Alaska Fire Service Hotshot Crew History

The first Alaska Bureau of Land Management seasonal fire crew was started by the Anchorage District and based at the District Office at Campbell Tract in 1974. District Fire Management Officer Kay Johnson had been impressed by the Wenatchee Hotshots (Bushmen) and wanted a similar crew in Alaska. The crew was intended to be first reinforcement for initial attack forces. Crew size was set at sixteen members to meet the carrying capacity of the Twin Otter airplane (due to lack of roads, crew transport primarily consisted of fixed and rotor wing aircraft.) Former Helitack and Smokejumper Jay Peterson was selected as Crewboss of the crew known as the Anchorage Hotshots*. The crew was used extensively throughout Anchorage District. In 1976, several members of the Anchorage Hotshots* were selected to be overhead on a second Anchorage crew. Ed Dallis was Crewboss of the new crew which was also based at Campbell Tract. This crew, which could be broken into "overhead" positions as needed, was predecessor of the Fire Specialty Unit (later to become the Smokechasers and eventually Fire Suppression Specialists. 

By 1979. both of the Anchorage Hotshot* crews were moved to the Wildwood station in Kenia, on the peninsula southwest of Anchorage. The two crews were known as the Red and Black crews due to the red or black stripes on their hardhats. Jay Peterson was Crewboss of the Red crew and Dave Cox Crewboss of the Black crew. 

1981 was the last year of an Anchorage District Hotshot* crew based in Kenia. Leonard Wehking was the Crewboss during that last season. After training together, the second Kenai crew was reassigned to the McGrath station which was located on Kuskokuim River in Southwest Alaska. Later in the 1981 season, the McGrath crew was disbanded and the remaining crewmembers absorbed into Wehking's Kenia crew. Rick Lind was Crewboss for the McGrath crew during that short period.

Seeing the value of a dependable organized crew for fire reinforcement as well as a hiring pool for the primary initial attack forces (Helitack and Smokejumpers,) Fairbanks District BLM started a crew in Fairbanks for the 1977 fire season. Smokejumper Bob Quillin was selected as the Fairbanks Crewboss. Crewmembers were hired through the Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) until that program ended in 1981.

In 1980, the Fortymile District started a crew at Tanacross, located on the Alaska Highway not far from the border of Canada's Yukon Territory. Roger Vorce served as Coordinator of the Hotshot* program at the Tanacross station. Crewboss of the Tanacross crew was Brett Mason, before being replaced by Paul Naman in the latter part of the season. The Tanacross crew was moved to Fairbanks in 1981 and became Fairbanks Hotshot Crew #2, remaining under Paul Naman's leadership.

The Alaska Fire service was established in the 1982, which shifted wildfire management responsibilities from the BLM Districts and provided firefighting services to all Federal, Native, and some State of Alaska lands north of the Alaska Range. By this time there were only two seasonal BLM fire crews (Hotshot Crew #1 & #2,) both based at Ft. Wainwright, an Army base located on the outskirts of Fairbanks, Alaska. When in Fairbanks, the crews lived in military barracks and ate meals at the BLM mess hall. During the fire season the Hotshots* were often temporarily relocated to bush stations. 

Initially, the Alaska Fire Service Hotshots* were organizationally within the Fire Suppression Specialist (FSS) program, managed at that time by Tom Goheen. Dave Stewart became the Hotshot Manager in 1984 when the AFS Hotshots* became its own program within the Division of Attack Systems. 

The Blackrock Hotshots, a Kern County California BLM crew detailed to Alaska for the 1984 fire season. The fire crew arrived with the Alaska standard crew size of sixteen members. An agreement had been made by the Alaska Fire Service to provide Blackrock IHC with additional crewmembers when they returned to their home base. AFS Hotshot Crew #1 disbanded in early July when six of their crew went south to California with the Blackrock Hotshots. Hotshot Crew #2 remained intact and absorbed the crewmembers left behind. This combined hiring only lasted on season. 

In Fall of 1984, a proposal was submitted to Attack Systems Division Chief Marv Robertson for conversion of the Alaska Fire Service Hotshot* crews to interagency Type 1 status. Included in the proposal was a plan for an additional Type 2 fire crew to serve as an entry level recruitment and training tool. The Type 2 crew would provide opportunities for Alaskans, particularly native residents and be a ladder into the Hotshot crews. It would also provide a place for experienced Hotshot crewmen to gain supervisory experience by serving in crew leadership positions. The decision was made to support the two Type 1 Hotshot crews, but not the Type 2 crew.

Division Chief Robertson selected Dave Dash as Hotshot program Manager in 1985 when prior manager Dave Stewart left for another job. Jon Larson, who had experience in the early years of the National Parks Service Hotshots Program, assisted Dash in designing and developing the new Alaska Fire Service Type 1 Hotshot program. Fairbanks Crew #1 & #2 were renamed the Chena IHC and Midnight Sun IHC. Andy Alexandrou had previously referred to his Hotshot Crew #1 as the Midnight Suns. Jon Larson served as Superintendent of the Chena IHC and Dave Lockwood Superintendent of the Midnight Sun IHC during that first year. 

In early 1986, Jerry Soard, Foreman of the Chena Hotshots, replaced Dave Lockwood as Superintendent of the Midnight Sun Hotshots. Jon Larson and Jerry Soard worked Closely together to develop stability in the Hotshot program and ensure that the Alaska Fire Service hotshots met all agency and interagency goals and standards. By 1989, with both crews successfully integrated and accepted within the Interagency Fire community, Larson and Soard determined it was time to pass crew leadership to new leaders. Hotshot Programs Manager Dave Dash selected Steve Bumgarner (Chena IHC) and Dave Jandt (Midnight Sun IHC) to be the new Superintendents. Later, Dave Jandt became hotshot Program Manager until the position was abolished in 1999. 

In 1987, the Alaska Fire Service created a Type 2 entry level training crew. The North Star Fire crew was managed by the Hotshot Program Manager and staffed with a WAE Crewboss and three seasonal GS Squadleaders. The crewmembers consisted of volunteers who were paid AD wages when working on fires. Many North Star crewmembers later advanced to the Hotshots or other positions within the Alaska Fire Service. 

Also in 1987, the Alaska Fire Service Hotshot Program entered into an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service (North Zone  - Region 5) for crew exchanged. The Forest Service would detail a R5 Hotshot crew to Alaska during early Alaska fire season and an AFS Hotshot crew would detail to California once the Alaska season waned. After a few years, the Forest Service ended sending a crew north, but the AFS continued the Hotshot detail to the Shasta Trinity and Klamath National Forests until 1996. The Alaska Fire Service continues to detail Hotshot crews to the Lower 48, but now on a short term basis. 

A 1998 agreement between Chugachmuit Native Corporation and the Alaska Bureau of Land Management created a third hotshot crew to be managed under the Alaska Fire Service Hotshot Program. The Denali Hotshots, also stationed at Ft. Wainwright, were active between 1998 and 2007. All Denali IHC Superintendents were former Chena IHC and Midnight IHC members.

New BLM barracks were constructed near the Alaska Fire Service Operations building, which is conveniently located adjacent to the Ft. Wainwright airstrip. The Hotshot crews along with other seasonal employees moved into the new facilities in 2005. 

The Hotshot Program has remained an integral and highly valued component of the Alaska Fire Service as well as one of its most visible. The program and its members continue to serve their mission well and should be proud of their achievements.

Prepared by Jon Larson, with assistance from Tony Pastro, Bob Quillin, Jay Peterson, Pat Houghton, Tom Boatner, Paul Naman, Leonard Wehking, Sean Cross, Jim Raudenbush, and Jake Livingston.

*Though the pre-1985 crews were referred to as "Hotshots", they actually met category 2 (later Type 2) standards. 


Dave Stewart

George Stevens

Mark Handley

Kato Howard

Don Martin

Doug Tracy

Everett Ruble

Jeff Manna

Jeff Nelson

Joseph Boutten

Karl Reichus

Richard Commack

Rick Wells

Ron Christensen

Terry Bole

Tom Phillip

Will Worthwise


Andrew Alexandrou

Patrick Houghton

Mark Resetarits

Chris Kurtz

John Winters

Lance Clouser

Larry League

Richard Crowther

Robert Fort

Stacy Rodgers

Steven Stone

Timothy Gould

Timothy Parkan

William Arnold


Andrew Alexandrou

Patrick Houghton

Mark Resetarits

Albert Frank

Alfred Seiler

Daniel Childs

Jeffery Courtway

Lance Clouser

Larry Teague

Michael Tupper

Richard Crowther

Robert Burns

Robert Crane

Robert Fort

Timothy Gould

William Arnold


Dave Lockwood

Kato Howard

Robert Knutson

Amy Whistler

Danny Dyer

Doug Delong

Fred Ervin

Gary Cole

Jack Hurd

James Harro

Jana Jackson

John Pellissier

John Trawicki

Larry Teague

Mark Johnson

Mike Smith

Peter Teensma

Robert Burns

Robert Ford

Robert Schmoll

William Arnold