Fort Apache has been a fully certified Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) since 1982. The crew is sponsored and managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and hosted at the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Whiteriver, Arizona.

Fort Apache IHC logo

History of the Crew

The home base for the Fort Apache IHC is in Whiteriver, Arizona on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. All crew personnel are Tribal members.

The Fort Apache Hotshot Program was the first nationally funded all-Native American hotshot crew in the country. Starting out as a Type 2 hand crew in March 1982, the crew developed a strong reputation for consistently providing outstanding performance on the fireline. This performance caught the eye of several incident management teams who suggested to BIA leadership to develop a Hotshot crew from these firefighters.

The first Fort Apache Superintendent was Gibson Pinal, who served on the crew from 1982 to 1983. In 1985, Varnell Gatewood led the crew through its Type 1 trainee status, and in 1985, he handed the feather to Ralph Thomas, the first superintendent to manage the newly certified IHC. Through Thomas’ leadership and guidance, the crew earned a reputation for being a tough and highly skilled hand crew. Throughout the years, the crew saw plenty of activity throughout the country. The most memorable was the summer of 1988 during the Yellowstone fires, during which the crew worked three 30-day assignments, all in Yellowstone National Park. In 2002 they received recognition for their outstanding efforts that stopped the Rodeo-Chediski Fire from jumping containment lines that would have done great damage to the Show Low and Pinetop communities in Arizona.

The late Rick Lupe, a crewmember since 1978, was the Superintendent from 1992-2001. In 2003, a year after he transferred to the Fort Apache Fuels Management Department, he was fatally injured in a prescribed burn incident.

Fort Apache IHC crew photo 2021
Fort Apache IHC crew photo, 2021

Superintendents Past and Present

  • 2012-Present: Brian Quintero
  • 2006-2011: Trenton Prins
  • 2003-2006: Dan Philbin
  • 2002-2003: Marco Minjarez (Detailed)
  • 1992-2001: Rick Lupe
  • 1985-1992: Ralph Thomas
  • 1984-1985: Varnell Gatewood
  • 1982-1983: Gibson Pinal

Additional Information

Contact Us

Fort Apache IHC
Fort Apache Agency, 180 W Horseshoe Ave
Whiteriver, AZ 85941