USDA Forest Service

Six Rivers National Forest


Ukonom Hotshots

Orleans/Ukonom Ranger District

P.O Box 410, Orleans, CA, 95556




Ukonom Hotshots

Prior to the National Fire Plan in 2000, the Six Rivers National Forest’s crew history had been comprised only of various Brush Disposal and 10-person Initial Attack crews.  As part of what became known as the MEL (Most Efficient Level) build-up, the Six Rivers N.F. Fire Chief John Wendt and Deputy Forest Fire Chief Kent Swartzlander decided to replace the 4 districts’ existing 10-person IA crews with Hotshot Crews.

 In April of 2003, Six Rivers Crew 2 was formed on the Orleans/Ukonom Ranger District of the Six Rivers N.F. as a Type 2 IA crew with the goal of becoming the first certified Hotshot Crew in the History of the Six Rivers National Forest. Under the leadership of John W. Gibbons, a veteran of 30+ fire seasons, Crew 2 set upon this mission with great vigor and enthusiasm.   The crew was stationed on the Orleans District of the Six Rivers, and worked out of the Oak Bottom Fire Station in Somes Bar on the Ukonom Ranger District.

In 2005 the decision was made to adopt the name of the Ukonom district and the crew became known as the Ukonom Handcrew.  The “Coyote that steals the fire”, a prominent character in local Karuk tribal lore, was incorporated into the crew logo.  In 2006, Supt. Gibbons was forced by retirement law to leave the federal service with 33 years of firefighting experience.  Captain John Cataldo was then promoted to Superintendent, and Squad Boss Keith Smith was promoted to Captain, and the process of building towards Hotshot status was continued.   

In May of 2008, a USFS Region 5 Safety First Hotshot Crew Certification Team comprised of Team Leader Don Will, Salmon River IHC Superintendent Jimmy Allen, and subject-matter-expert Ed Merrill performed an intensive 2-day evaluation of the Ukonom Handcrew.  On May 22, 2008 the Ukonom Hotshots achieved certification as the 1st Hotshot Crew in the history of the Six Rivers National Forest

In April of 2010, the Washington Office issued a directive that all Hotshot crews in Region 5 are to be identified as Interagency Hotshot Crews.  Ukonom IHC is dedicated to earning that designation every day through hard work and strict adherence to our core values of Safety, Duty, Respect, Integrity, and Professionalism.

The Ukonom Interagency Hotshot Crew  prides itself on having an exceptional work ethic that dates back to the early days of Hotshot crews, and are always willing to put in the extra chain of line, and be first ones up and the last ones off the hill each day.

Squad Leaders 

Robert D. Shufelt: 2003-2004

Joseph S. Kennedy: 2003-2005

Keith R. Smith: 2006

Dale A. Mendes: 2007 – 2010

Zachary W. Allen: 2006 – 2011

Thomas J. Hawkins: 2011 – 2013

Alexander M. Miyagishima: 2011-2013

Joel J. Berg: 2014 - Present

Eric C. Johnson: 2014 - Present



               John P. Cataldo: 2003-2006

Randall E. Nulph: 2003 – 2009

Keith R. Smith: 2006 –2010

             Donald C. Perez: 2010 and 2014             

Dale A. Mendes: 2011 –2013

Robert McConnell Jr:  2012 – 2013

Thomas J. Hawkins: 2014 – Present

Henry “Gordy” Meyer: 2015 - Present



John W. Gibbons: 2003 -2006


John P. Cataldo: 2006 – 2010


               Keith R. Smith: 2011 – Present