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mage of the Helena Hotshots logo.Helena IHC History 1971 ~ 2007

Located on the Helena RD, the Helena "Inter-Regional" crew had its beginnings in 1971, organized initially as a 10-person brush/camp crew under the supervision of Mike Collins; AD hires were used to bulk the crew numbers up to 20. By July of 1971 the crew was being dispatched as a suppression unit, with the crew arriving at the incident under the "IR" designation. This did not endear the Helena crew to the other legitimate IR crews and made for interesting chowtime conversation. Crew strength numbers fluctuated, but early crew composition included many Native Americans as well as Vietnam era veterans. Special mention needs to be made of Dale Jarrell's efforts to establish the Helena crew during these early years. The crew continued as a "quasi" Hotshot crew in 1973, responding to fires but not having regional recognition.

In 1974 the crew received a new crew boss Tom Patten, regional recognition and financing, and was the only Hotshot crew in the region east of the continental divide, as well as the only Region 1 crew operating with out housing or barracks for crewmembers. Patten continued as "crew boss" through 1975, at which time Mike Peila took over the helm. During this time the crew performed notably on most major fires of the period including, Skinner Mill, Marble Cone and late season Region 9 fires. The crew did not have "formal" recognition in 1979 due to fiscal constraints, but in 1980 the crew returned under the supervision of new crew foreman Larry Cole. During Cole's tenure - 1980 through 1982 - the crew remained on the Helena RD and continued to respond to a number of fires within and out of region.

In 1983 Dave Larsen, who had previously worked on the hotshot crew with Larry Cole and Mike Peila, took over "crew boss" responsibilities. During Larsen's reign, 1983 through 1988, two significant personnel actions occurred. The first being the establishment of the GS-6 assistant foreman position in 1986, the first in the Region to do so, and secondly, in 1987, the reinstatement of WAE Status for the crew foreman. Gary Sullivan performed as Acting Superintendent during the bulk of the 1988 season.

In 1989 Larry Edwards assumed the superintendent position. Under Edwards the crew changed with the time transforming from an Inter-regional (IR) crew to an Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC). He also established permanent seasonal positions for a Gs-8 foreman, and three Gs-6 module leaders. In 1994, Buddy Bogus stepped up as acting superintendent to lead the crew during most of the field season with Larry returning from a detail at the end of the summer. Larry's crews were always known for their hard work and their ability to get the job done. Larry dedicated 13 years to the program with his tenure ending after the 2001 fire season.

Rocky Gilbert took over in 2002 and served as the Superintendent for four years. In 2006, Kenny Spint detailed into the Superintendent position. Fred Thompson was hired as the Superintendent in 2007.

Photo of the Helena Hotshots superintendent's license plate.
For more information on the Helena IHC,
email Fred Thompson, Superintendent