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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…

Practice Jump

There are two systems used, the round parachute by the Forest Service, and the square or “ram-air” parachute used by the BLM.

This photo shows a practice jump with a ram-air parachute in the desert near Grand Junction, Colorado. (Photo by Dr. Steve Baker) Jumps are normally from 1,500 to 3,000 feet above ground level, in the safest spot that is nearby (not in) the fire.

On most fires, two to eight smokejumpers are dropped, but additional smokejumpers or further reinforcements will be called in if necessary.

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