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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…


This photo taken from a Twin Otter aircraft shows a fire in Nevada, during the 2002 fire season. Smokejumpers often call this type of fire a “gobbler,” for the way it gobbles up everything in it’s path, including unwary firefighters.

We picked a safe place to land, which was fortunate, because we were soon “burned over.” To be burned over means to be over-run by the fire. Because we knew this might happen, we selected a “safety zone” long before it was necessary.

When the fire blew up, we withdrew to a previously burned area and watched the towering flames and smoke and listened to the roar of the fire.

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