The 19 firefighters who lost their lives battling a raging wildfire in centralArizona on Sunday were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew of U.S. wildfire firefighters based in Prescott, Arizona.
Hotshot crews—there are roughly 107 in the U.S.—consist of 20 firefighters who have been specifically trained to respond to fires in remote regions with little or no logistical support.
"In the world of wildland firefighting today, the hotshot crews are similar to the Special Forces in the military," said Dick Smith, a retired firefighter who spent 38 years fighting wildfires with the U.S. Fire Service. "They’re highly trained and can meet the highest physical requirements."
Candidates for the Granite Mountain Hotshots had to show that they could pass the arduous Pack Test and complete a series of physical activities, ranging from 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds to 7 pull-ups to a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) run in just under 11 minutes.
"We believe in rigorous physical and mental training, which allows us to perform at the optimum level in any location and under any circumstances," said the Hotshots’ website.
"We are routinely exposed to extreme environmental conditions, long work hours, long travel hours and the most demanding of fire line tasks."
Becoming a Hotshot
The 2,000 or so firefighters who make up the nation’s elite hotshot crews work in groups of 20, in crews scattered across the United States. During peak wildfire season, the crews are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.