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 a 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 supervised this crew based out of the Summit “Bunkhouse” in Government Camp, Oregon.
In 1975, the Zigzag District started a 20-person Regional Reinforcement fire crew, known as the Mt. Hood RR Crew. Superintendent Lee Englesby led the crew based out of Snow Bunny Lodge, east of Government Camp. In 1976, the crew moved to the Boy Scout’s White River Lodge.
Under Roddy Baumann’s leadership in 1977-1978, the crew transitioned into a 20-person inter-region fire team, called the Mt. Hood IR Crew. In 1979, the crew became the Zigzag Interagency Hotshot Crew. A pioneering woman firefighter, Kimberly Brandel, was the first female member on the Zigzag Hotshots.
That same year, Paul Gleason became the hotshot crews' second superintendent. While serving as superindent, Gleason developed the Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes and Safety Zones (LCES) national safety program. While cancer claimed Gleason’s life in 2003, his national wildland fire legacy continues to burn bright.
In 1991, Gina Papke took over the Zigzag Hotshot leadership becoming the first female interagency hotshot crew superintendent in the nation. Papke served as superintendent through the 2000 fire season. Diego Mendiola, who was born and raised on the island of Saipan and later spent 14 years on the Mendocino Interagency Hotshot Crew in California, replaced her. Mendiola served as Zigzag Interagency Hotshot Crew s uperintendent until 2016. He retired as the longest tenured superintendent in Zigzags proud history.
The crew still barracks in the original, refurbished Summit Bunkhouse that held that special Zigzag firefighting team more than half a century ago.