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Vandenberg’s Hot Shots return, receive hero’s welcome

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Ten Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members return home in their crew vehicle here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Ten Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members return home in their crew vehicle here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Ten Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members return home in their crew vehicle here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Ten Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members return home in their crew vehicle here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg members greet returning Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg members greet returning Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg members greet returning Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Vandenberg members greet returning Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots arrive home after fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots arrive home after fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots arrive home after fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots arrive home after fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. ? Vandenberg Hot Shots receive are welcomed by 30th Security Forces Squadron members as they arrive home Thursday, July 12, 2012. Eighteen Hot Shots members were sent from Vandenberg AFB to help fight wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. ? Vandenberg Hot Shots receive are welcomed by 30th Security Forces Squadron members as they arrive home Thursday, July 12, 2012. Eighteen Hot Shots members were sent from Vandenberg AFB to help fight wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Vandenberg Hot Shots crew vehicle is doused by fire trucks as it arrives at the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Vandenberg Hot Shots crew vehicle is doused by fire trucks as it arrives at the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Vandenberg Hot Shots crew vehicle is doused by fire trucks as it arrives at the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A Vandenberg Hot Shots crew vehicle is doused by fire trucks as it arrives at the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Brent McArther, 30th Space Wing vice commander, speaks with members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots outside the Pacific Coast Club here after they returned from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)
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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Brent McArther, 30th Space Wing vice commander, speaks with members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots outside the Pacific Coast Club here after they returned from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots pose for a photo outside the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)
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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the Vandenberg Hot Shots pose for a photo outside the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Trent Ogan, a member of the Vandenberg Hot Shots crew, embraces his family outside the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)
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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Trent Ogan, a member of the Vandenberg Hot Shots crew, embraces his family outside the Pacific Coast Club here after returning from fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming Thursday, July 12, 2012. Wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander, greets returning Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)
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VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander, greets returning Vandenberg Hot Shots crew members here, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The Hot Shots were fighting wildfires in Colorado and Wyoming, which burned 29,168 acres total and destroyed nearly 350 houses in Colorado. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jerry E. Clemens Jr.)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Ten members of Vandenberg's Hot Shots crew received a hero's welcome as they arrived on base at 2:56 p.m. today.

The hot shots were greeted by fire trucks creating a "water arch" tunnel at the Pacific Coast Club here and applause from 30th Space Wing leadership, members of the Vandenberg Fire Department, families and other base personnel after spending a week fighting the wildland fires that singed Colorado and parts of Wyoming.

"Typically we'd wake up at 4:30, grab chow, brief the crew, head out to the line and work until about 9 p.m." said Brooks Mabery, a Vandenberg Firefighter filling in for the hot shots. "Seeing homes burning is a really sad sight. It's something that really hits home. It makes you feel better about what you do, seeing that and trying to prevent any more homes from being destroyed."

The Hot Shots concentrated their initial efforts on the 18,247 acre Waldo Canyon Fire raging through Colorado Springs and eventually moved into parts of Wyoming.

"Soon after [The Vandenberg Hot Shots] arrived in Colorado to fight the Waldo Canyon Fire, they had an urgent need for them in Wyoming," said Mark Farias, Vandenberg Fire Department chief. "The big thing that they accomplished was protecting residential areas. They were able to cut line and divert the fire from the houses."

One of the biggest challenges was something they were unable to train for.

"The hardest part was working through the elevation," said Shane Green, a Vandenberg Hot Shots crew member. "We are used to being at sea level, so that was an adjustment. We cut approximately 6,600 feet of line the first day and I feel like that made a difference. "
The spirit of the Vandenberg Hot Shots' efforts stretched beyond the Colorado and Wyoming state lines, according to the 30th SW commander.

"Warriors come in all shapes and sizes," said Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander. "Team Vandenberg embodies the warrior ethos not only though the Airmen sitting on console during a launch, or the 110 members of the 30th Space Wing currently deployed, but also through our first responders' flawless execution and dedication to assisting the public during both local and national crises."

According to the Vandenberg fire chief, this sense of teamwork is what these hot shots are made of.

"They go where regular fire fighters can't and do what regular fire fighters can't do," Farias said. "Our hot shots working together with divergent agencies is teamwork at its finest."