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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…

Jump Gear

Smokejumpers wear a padded jump jacket and pants, made of Kevlar, the same material used for bullet-proof vests. A motorcycle style helmet is worn, featuring a heavy, wire-mesh face mask. (At left is a picture taken by Steve Baker right after I landed on a practice jump.)

A small gear bag is carried by each smokejumper, in which are carried water, gloves, hardhat, fire shelter, and other personal belongings needed for a shift on the fireline.

Heavier equipment is dropped separately. A “let-down” rope is carried in the right leg pocket in case it is necessary to rappel down out of a tall tree.

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