Rio Hondo Fire Academy

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Wildland Fire Academy Program


Wildland Fire Academy Program FAQs

Who are the Rio Hondo Roadrunners?

The Roadrunners are a Type II hand crew formed in 2001 as a joint venture between U.S. Forest Service and Rio Hondo Community college. The crew is dispatched by the Angeles National Forest located North of Los Angeles, CA. The crew is staffed by the young men and women students of Rio Hondo Community College.


What is the Roadrunner's normal personnel complement?

The crew consists of on average 18 to 20 members led by a Crew Boss from the U.S. Forest Service or a local city fire department as fireline leadership. Most times, a Crew Boss Trainnee will be assigned as well. The crew is further divided in half by squads with a crew leader overseeing the two squads and reporting to the Crew Boss. Each crew squad has a Squad Boss who will run their squad and report to the crew leader. Each squad will have a (power) saw team consisting of two people, the sawyer and swamper. The remainder of the squad will consist of six crewmembers.


How does the crew travel?

The crew travels between assignment on chartered buses that carry the personnel as well as all the crew's equipment and personal belongings. Occasionally the crew may travel by helicopter into remote locations.


What is the range of a hand crew?

A crew is considered a regional resource and normally works within the State of California, concentrating on their home forest. If out of region resources are low, the Roadrunner Hand Crew can be called out of state for assigments such as the Space Shuttle Disaster Recovery in Texas.


How long does a crew work?

A typical hand crew rotation will consist of a 14 day assignment. Shift assignment will vary, but it can be expected to be from 10 to 16 hours a day. Occasionally, a 24 hour shift will be neccessarry. In that case, OSHA rules will dictate that the crew will have 12 hours off minimum.


What is my time commitment?

During fire season, crew members are required to be within a 2 hour on call range. Crew members will be contacted by a crew coordinator with a time and location for gathering for an assignment. The first crew complement that responds and accepts the assigment are the only ones who will go. It would be in your best interest to invest in a mobile phone/pager.


How much can you make on a hand crew?

The big question everyone wants to know.

It varies with position, experience, and the number of assignments. The different pay scales are as follows: AD1, AD2, AD3, & AD4 with AD4 being the highest rate.

AD1 rate is a training rate. If it is your first assignment or fire, you will receive this rate until the Crew Boss determins that you have performed satisfactorilly.

AD2 is the rate at which the majority of the crew will work under.

The AD3 rate is for leadership positions. The positions that fall under AD3 are: Squad Leaders and Sawyers.

The AD4 rate is reserved for the Crew Leader.

The hourly pay can vary from approximately $10/hr to $15/hr. Pay from a 14 day assignment can be $1500 to $2200. The exact wage rates are available at the crew offices.

What kind of work does the crew do?

The crew's primary duty is wildland fire supression but is not limited to that. The crew can be summoned for manpower during natural and man made disasters. The work can range from working on the Space Shuttle disaster recovery to securing hillsides for floods and landslides before and after fires.


Where does the crew stay/sleep/eat?

The crew will generally stay in an organized fire camp or spike camp. The crew will sleep in tents unless there are sleep trailers or sleeping facilites availble such as school gyms or simmilar structure. On rare occasions, the crew will sleep in hotel/motels. The crew will generally eat in fire camp but if a fire camp has not been setup yet, the Crew Boss will feed the crew at local restraunts. Essentially, when you are in working status for the crew, your main meals, lodging, and transportation will be provided by the U.S. Forest Service or the Rio Hondo Community College.

How do I get on the Roadrunner Hand Crew?

Contact the crew's staff.
Attend an orientation meeting at the college.
Sign up for the Wildland Fire Academy program.

The hand crew is NOT a walk on position. It takes months of training to be ready for the crew. The training will range for classwork and fieldwork to heavy duty physical training. Hand crews are the work horse of wildland fire supression and is very physically demanding.

Who advises and instructs the Roadrunner Hand Crew?

The crew's staff consist of:

Chief Tracy Rickman:

Tracy Rickman began his Career in 1982 as a Firefighter with the US. Air Force. He was stationed at Grand Forks North Dakota, Egland Air Force Base, Florida and March Air Force Base in California. He obtained his Associate Degree in Fire Technology in 1986 from the Community College of the Air Force and his Bachelor's Degree in Management in 1989 from Park College, Parkville MO. In 1990 he left the Air Force with two Commendation Medals and an Achievement Medal. He was then hired by Northrop Grumman Fire Department (B-2
Division) as the Assistant Chief of Operations and Training.

He became a State Certified Fire and Hazardous Materials Instructor, as well as a certified Fire Code Inspector by ICBO in 1992. In 1997, he was hired by Rio Hondo College and the South Pasadena Fire Department. He was the Fire Specialist for the South Pasadena Fire Department and left in 1999 for his tenure track position with Rio Hondo College. He received his Master's of Public Administration in 1998 from the University of LaVerne and is now an Associate Professor at Rio Hondo College and Site Coordinator of the Fire Technology program.

He began his Doctorate at the University of Nebraska in 2001. He is a Board Member at the "Episcopal Church Camp" in Wrightwood and currently the Secretary of the "California Fire Directors Association". He has five children and enjoys camping, sports, snowboarding, and motorcycles.

Feel free to contact Chief Rickman at

Captain John Bennett:

Mr. Bennett has been an instructor at Rio Hondo College since 1985. He has been an Advisor to the Roadrunner Fire Crew since its inception.

Mr. Bennett retired from the United States Forest Service in 2001 after thirty years of service with the National Forest, Mexico, and California. He worked on hand crews, engines, helitack crews and as a fire investigator.

Mr Bennett has since retired from Rio Hondo College in 2016.