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Flathead Hotshots heading to Florida to help with post-Ian cleanup

| September 29, 2022 12:35 PM

The Flathead Hotshots are heading to Florida to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Ian devastated the state with historic flooding and damage.

The Hotshots are better known as elite crews that fight wildfires, but are also well-equipped for natural disaster assistance.

“We’re well adept at living in the natural environment,” superintendent Shawn Borgen said.

The Flathead crew is no stranger to hurricanes. They also helped cleanup of Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.

Hurricane Ian was still churning across Florida as the Hotshots made their way across Montana in five rigs — three case trucks that carry gear and crews and two crew carriers. They expected to take shifts driving with minimal stops along the way. All told, the crew is 23 men and women.

They expect to arrive on Saturday and be down there until Nov. 13-14.

Borgen said the work will entail whatever is asked of them by the incident command team, but because of their background in firefighting and elite chainsaw work, they often clear debris and trees, starting with major highways and then working back into county and local roads.

There’s a host of hazards, from downed power lines to poisonous snakes.

“They’ll assign us to the hardest hit counties,” he said.

But it isn’t all saw work. They may also be asked to distribute supplies, load helicopters and do other quick and productive tasks.

They don’t expect to be taken care of.

“We’re required to be 100% self-sufficient,” Borgen said, adding, “If we’re available for natural disasters, we almost always get deployed.”

Nationwide, there are about 120Forest Service Hotshot crews.

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