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Zigzag IHC History

The roots of the ZigZag Interagency Hotshot Crew stretch back to the early 1960s when the Mt. Hood National Forest’s ZigZag Ranger District hosted the 12-person ZigZag Fire Suppression Crew. This was a multi-purpose line-digging team that responded to fires in addition to building and maintaining forest trails and recreation sites. Don Vandenberg, who would later become the ZigZag District’s Assistant Fire Management Officer in the 1970s, ran this crew. It was based out of the Summit “Bunkhouse” in Government Camp.

In 1975, the ZigZag District started a 20-person Regional Reinforcement fire crew, known as the Mt. Hood RR Crew. Supervised by Lee Englesby, the crew was based out of Snow Bunny Lodge, just east of Government Camp. In 1976, the crew moved farther east—still on the ZigZag Ranger District—to the Boy Scout’s White River Lodge. Bill Erickson was the supervisor. A pioneering woman firefighter, Kimberly Brandel, was a member of this crew—it’s very first and only female.

Under Roddy Baumann’s leadership in 1977-1978, the crew transitioned into a 20-person Inter-Regional fire Zigzag Hotshotsteam, called the Mt. Hood IR Crew. In 1979, the crew became the ZigZag Interagency Hotshot Crew—which it remains today. The ZigZag Hotshots’ Kimberly Brandel became the first woman in the nation to be a member of an interagency hotshot crew.

That same year, Paul Gleason, who would become the originator of the national LCES safety program that he started at ZigZag, came onboard as the IHC’s second Superintendent. While cancer claimed Gleason’s life in 2003, his national wildland fire legacy continues to burn bright. Gleason started his wildland fire career with southern California’s Dalton Interagency Hotshot Crew on the Angeles National Forest. Dalton’s crew colors were—and still are—red and black. Paul continued that color scheme at ZigZag. To this day, the crew’s official (and proud) colors remain red and black. Gleason experienced the potential risks of the wildland fire environment firsthand, including assignment on two tragedy fires. The Dalton IHC was assigned to the 1966 Loop fire that resulted in several fatalities. Years later in 1990, as Superintendent of the ZigZag IHC, the crew was assigned to the Dude Fire. Paul’s actions on this fire saved a firefighter’s life. At the end of the 1990 season, after 11 years as ZigZag IHC’s Superintendent, Paul left the crew to continue his wildland fire career in Colorado.

In 1991, Gina Papke took over the ZigZag Hotshot leadership reins when she became the first female IHC Superintendent in the nation. Papke served as Superintendent through the 2000 fire season when Diego Mendiola, who was born and raised on the island of Saipan and later spent 14 years on the Mendocino IHC in California, replaced her. Today, Mendiola continues to serve as the Superintendent of the ZigZag Interagency Hotshot Crew. The crew still uses as a bunkhouse the original and refurbished Summit Bunkhouse that held that special ZigZag firefighting team more than half a century ago.