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Posted 5/2/2017

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By Dave Palmer

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. — Fort Huachuca and the Bureau of Land Management welcomed the community to the new operating base for BLM's Aravaipa Veteran Firefighting Crew April 28.  

Aravaipa Canyon, located northeast of Tucson, Arizona, is the crew's namesake. 

Through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Installation Support mission, BLM signed a long-term agreement with the garrison. 

"We issued a 20-year permit," said Elizabeth Brooks, a realty specialist in the Los Angeles District's Arizona-Nevada Area Office. "BLM first approached the post's Department of Public Works about suitable training, storage and maintenance facilities for the team. Then, it's our job to structure the agreement." 

The Corps is steward of the fourth largest asset portfolio, by value, of all federal agencies. 

Kelly Castillo, BLM Arizona State Fire Management Officer, spoke about Aravaipa. 

"The crew we're talking about today is in their second season," said Castillo. "Once they attain Type I Hotshot status, they will be the only BLM-certified Hotshot crew in the southwest geographic area which includes Arizona, New Mexico and part of Texas. And, they will then be one of 12 such crews nationwide." 

A hotshot crew is specially trained in wildfire suppression tactics and must meet stringent requirements established by interagency fire managers. Castillo anticipates the hand crew will reach Hotshot certification by 2019. 

The predominantly military veteran Aravaipa crew was formed in November 2015 as part of BLM's emphasis on hiring veterans and in response to a nationwide increase in wildfire activity and the need for highly skilled firefighters. 

Sadly, the ceremony was missing its honored guests; the crew was actively engaged in fighting the Sawmill Fire southeast of Tucson.

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