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Insider's Look at Smokejumping

Insider's Look at Smokejumping

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Bruce L. Nelson w/introduction by

Smokejumpers are highly trained wildfire firefighters deployed to remote locations. They are parachuted in to to secure fires otherwise unreachable by local forces. By making use of high-altitude aircraft, smokejumpers are able to reach fires faster, cheaper, and better equipped than any road-bound vehicle.

Because smokejumping forces are limited to small teams, most of us don’t get a chance to see what these special forces battle. “Buck” Nelson, a 20-year smokejumping veteran, gives us an insider look into the smokejumping world…


Smokejumpers may leave a fire by helicopter, on a four-wheel drive fire engine, or, if necessary, by packing up all their equipment and doing a “pack-out.”

Packs average slightly over 100 pounds, but may weigh 120 pounds or more. Here smokejumpers drop out of the timber on a packout from a fire in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest of NE Oregon.

Unusually steep or non-existent trails have made many smokejumpers consider a career change.

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