TODAY   |  July 01, 2013

'Hotshot' fire crews work dangerous fires' front lines

The firefighters killed Sunday in Arizona were part of the Hotshots, an elite crew known for working the front lines of the region’s worst fires. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports on the Hotshot crews around the nation that make up the cream of the firefighting crop.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> statement over the night calling those men heros. good morning i'm savannah guthrie along side willie geist and natalie morales . matt and al have this morning off.

>> the 19 that die were part of an elite grouped called hot shots . this tragedy highlighting the dangerous work they do. miguel, good morning.

>> willie good morning. hot shot crews are the best of the best tasked with containing some of the most dangerous fires. the men and women you're about to see were not involved in sunday's tragedy but they too put their lives on the line.

>> the firefighters killed sunday in arizona were part of an elite crew known for working the front lines of the region's worst fires including two others this season.

>> this was a hot shot crew. the hot shot crew were the people that literally go out on the fire line and attack them with tools and other implements.

>> hot shot firefighters across the country fight the types of fires most can't and others won't. the most experience blaze battling units in the nation, they're sent to the front lines with shovels and chainsaws, a face to face fire fight. hot shot crews are more than just firefighters. they're part paramedics, part lumber jack. they go through weeks of special training and not everyone makes the cut.

>> just go, as this fire did it can just go for miles and miles and sometimes a fast pace. you have to keep up with it.

>> the teams can spend all summer fighting fires, eating meals together, sleeping in tents and living out of their backpacks for weeks at a time. the long days and dangerous conditions are not for the faint of heart.

>> everyone gets scared, but, you know, you just trust the buddies you have and hopefully you're able to get home safe.

>> the hot shot crew involved in sunday's tragedy was made up of 20 men. the soul survivor was a look out. he was several miles away on a mountain top . willie.

>> always dangerous work. in this case, for 19 of them fatal. miguel, thanks.