Chief Mountain Hotshot crew. Lyle St. Goddard is fourth from right.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — The Chief Mountain Hotshots – a wildland firefighting crew based out of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana — made a brief stop in Fort Hall October 11 on their way to fight fires in California.
The 20-person crew stopped for a break at TP Gas in Fort Hall and their superintendent Lyle St. Goddard took time to be interviewed.
He said they were going to California to assist on the Mendocino Lake Complex fires. They had a pretty busy fire season this year mostly in Montana. “It’s our first out of region assignment – there was enough going on in Montana we didn’t have to travel very far but we’re pretty excited to go out and help the people in California.” A lot of people have lost their homes and it’s pretty devastating what is going on down there, he said.
He expected to stay a full tour – 14 days in the area. St. Goddard said they have a well experienced crew, “That’s what makes us really unique is we are able to split up – probably one of the few crews that can do that and we plan to go a little longer than most crews through the season.”
He added they’re glad to be doing it and helping out other people throughout in the United States and Alaska.
When asked about the wind on the fires, St. Goddard said it’s really a heads up situation, “It’s winds they normally don’t get down there and we got to be really heads up – know where our safety zones are with one foot in the black,” he continued. “It will be new territory for us and we have to be alert on the situation that arises once we get there.”
However, he said the crew has fought fires in California before as they have first hand experience and they’re not going in the dark. They’ve fought fires in the middle of California, north and the south.
Superintendent Lyle St. Goddard.
The Chief Mountain Hotshots began during the 1988 and 1989 fire season during two trial years. They received their Type 1 Hotshot status in 1990. St. Goddard said they’ve been around for awhile and try to represent all Native Americans, “Just so that all Native Americans can do this professional job, be expert at it and be safe.” They also share a lot of knowledge with other Native American crews as its one of their goals to mingle, “We’re not different, if we run into a Type II crew, we get right with them and try to work along side them,” he said.
The crew is mostly Blackfoot but have a couple of Cheyenne firefighters that are Blackfeet descendants.
Jonathon Skunkcap, a grandson of Leroy and Marlene Skunkcap is part of the crew and his parents are Hardee and Darcy Skunkcap.