The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 2, 2013

Arizona 'Hotshots' lived the meaning of the word

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As a condition of hire, each of these Hotshot members was required to pass the U.S. Forest Service's "Arduous Work Capacity Test" — which entails completing a 3-mile hike with a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes. The group also set for its members a fitness goal of a 1.5-mile run in 10 minutes, 35 seconds; 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds; 25 pushups in 60 seconds; and seven pull-ups, according to the crew's website.

"The nature of our work requires us to endure physical hardships beyond most people's experiences," the website said. "Environmental extremes, long hours, bad food, and steep, rugged terrain, demand that we train early and often by running and hiking, doing core exercises, yoga, and weight training."

The group started in 2002 as a fuels mitigation crew — clearing brush to starve a fire. Within six years, they had made their transition into the "elite" Hotshot community.

At Captain Crossfit, a warehouse filled with mats, obstacle courses, climbing walls and acrobatic rings near the firehouse where the Hotshots worked, trainers Janine Pereira and Tony Burris talked about their day-to-day experiences with the crew in what was a home away from home for most of them.

The whole group grew beards and mustaches before the fire season started but had to shave them for safety.

"They were trying to get away with it, and finally someone was like, 'No. You've got to shave that beard,'" Pereira said. "They were the strongest, the happiest, always smiling."

Former Marine Travis Turbyfill, 27, whose nickname was "Turby," would come in to train in the morning, then return in the afternoon with his two daughters and wife, Stephanie, a nurse, Pereira said.

"He'd wear these tight shorts ... just to be goofy," Pereira said. "He was in the Marine Corps and he was a Hotshot, so he could wear those and no one would bug him."

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