The GOLDEN EAGLES HOTSHOTS started as a request from the USDI Bureau of Indian Affairs Pacific Region. The region had sent out a letter to all reservation tribes expressing an interest in starting three Native American crews in the state of California. These crews were to be located regionally in California, one in the south, one central and one in the north.
The Sycuan Fire Department of the Kumeyaay Nation took this challenge and opportunity to bring together a diverse group of people, from many nations and many walks of life and proceeded to develop, shape and mold these individuals into an elite team of wildland firefighters. These courageous young men and women are destined to become our future leaders, role models and heroes in Indian Country and our communities across our great nation.
The Sycuan Fire Department / BIA GOLDEN EAGLES HOTSHOTS organization was established in June 15, 2000, under the Golden Eagles Handcrew name. The crew was to be a Type II organized crew working towards IHC certification. The crew was funded through a cooperative effort between The Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and USDI Bureau of Indian Affairs, Southern California Agency. During this initial period the crew was assigned and dispatch by the San Bernardino National Forest.
In August 2001, the GOLDEN EAGLES HANDCREW received recognition and status as a Type II “IA” Initial Attack Crew by the San Bernardino National Forest. This certification allowed the crew the opportunity to take on Type I assignments, these assignments helped in the shaping, molding and preparation of the crew for Type I certification.
The crew was recognized by BIA NIFC as a Type I IHC crew in training status on January of 2003, this status also provided the crew with partial funding from BIA NIFC hotshot program for fiscal year 2003. The BIA and the Sycuan Tribe meet in February 2003 to discuss how the program would be operated. The main discussion point was whether the crew would be directly supervised by the BIA or the Sycuan Tribe would contract the BIA's program under Public Law 93-638 contract guidelines. Based on this meeting, the Tribe elected to have the crew be hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Crew carriers were ordered utilizing additional funding provided by the national office. After many months of work within the federal hiring process, selections were made for the GOLDEN EAGLES HOTSHOTS “T” in August and September.
In February 2004, the Sycuan Tribe and the BIA meet to review the progress of the crew. The advantages and disadvantages of the crew being operated by the BIA or contracted by the Tribe. At that time, the Sycuan Tribe decided that the benefits of being able to hire and fire employees utilizing the Tribal personnel system in a short time period was critical to the GOLDEN EAGLES IHC “T”, especially during the fire season. The BIA initiated the 638 contracting process and the BIA funds were transferred to the Tribe to manage the federal fire program. Within a month, the Tribe was able to hire the crew. The Crew is funded utilizing BIA federal funds, and are required to meet all federal IHC requirements and are considered a Federal Fire Crew.
The 2004 fire season resulted in a few dispatches, however, the crew worked diligently on meeting all of the required training and qualification standards established for Interagency Hotshot Crews.
In June 2005, an Interregional review team traveled to the Sycuan Reservation and spent several days observing the crew, reviewing all of their training and experience listed under the Incident Qualifications and Certification System. Overall the Crew received a very favorable review. However, a few of the required factors for certification as a Interagency Hotshot Crew needed to be strengthened and documented.
The Crew was dispatched to numerous fires in California and out of Region during the fire season. In September 2005, a follow up review was made to determine if the crew had been successful in completing the last few items that had been identified in the earlier review.
The review team found that all requirements had been met by the GOLDEN EAGLES IHC “T” to be certified, and in October 2005, the BIA Pacific Regional Office certified the GOLDEN EAGLES as a fully qualified Interagency Hotshot Crew. The BIA, National Interagency Fire Center concurred with the certification that same month.