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Nez Perce NF, 104 Airport Road, Grangeville, ID 83530
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About the Grangeville Smokejumpers

Grangeville, Idaho is a town of about 3,000 people located in North-Central Idaho. The Smokejumpers are located at the Idaho County Airport in The Grangeville Air Center (GAC). GAC houses offices, a manufacturing area, parachute loft, tower, paracargo area, and ready room. Adjoining buildings include the home of the Clearwater/Nez Perce Helitack Crew, a saw cache, and work out facilities.

GAC Jumpers, when at home, normally cover initial attack duties in Idaho north of the Salmon River, parts of Eastern Oregon and Washington, with the occasional fires in Montana and elsewhere. However, in a busy season, GAC Jumpers will normally boost other bases and jump fires throughout the Western U.S. and Alaska.

Smokejumpers packing a parachute
 
 

Smokejumper Aircraft

The DeHaviland DHC-6 Twin Otter is the type of aircraft housed at GAC (Jump 14). This versatile twin engine airplane is ideal for back-country airstrips due to its Short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities. It normally carries 8 Jumpers and their gear plus 2 Spotters and its Pilot. Twin Otters are used extensively at many smokejumper bases and truly are one of the aviation work horses for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

The Douglas DC-3TP is an updated version of a type of aircraft that has been around since pre-WWII. The DC-3TP in Region 1 was totally overhauled and equipped with its turbo-prop engines in 1991. The "Doug" as it is known, holds 10 to 12 Jumpers and their gear plus Spotters and two Pilots.

Otter
 
 

Smokejumper Assignments

A typical fire call begins with a smoke reported to dispatch, who then relays that to the smokejumper base. When that call is received, the Jumpers who are on the first load as designated by the jump list, suit up and head towards the aircraft. The Jumpers do there final checks and load onto the plane with the "Spotters" while the pilot readies the aircraft for departure. The "Spotters" are experienced Jumpers whose job it is to get the Jumpers safely to the ground. Once airborne, the Spotters help the pilot get to the fire and then commence jump operations, which consists of finding a jump spot, throwing streamers to check wind-drift, and finally, directing the Jumpers out the door. Once safely on the ground, the Spotters then work with the Jumpers to drop in their paracargo, which carries all of their firefighting tools and everything they'll need to sustain themselves on the fire for up to three days or more.

The Jumpers then proceed to the fire and go to work. Once the line is completed and the fire is mopped up, the Jumpers must come up with a plan to get home. When helicopters are available they are used to come and pick up the gear and/or firefighters. However, in a busy fire season the Jumpers will probably have a long "pack-out" to look forward to. This requires the Jumpers to carry out all of their gear (normally well over 100 pounds!) to the closest trailhead or road for a rendevous with a ride back to the base.

Click here to see the current status of Smokejumpers

 
 

Smokejumper History

Jumping fires in the Inland Northwest is not a recent endeavor. Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley made the first parachute jump to a fire in July of 1940 on the Nez Perce National Forest. This marked the true beginning of the Smokejumper Program. At the time the two were stationed at the Moose Creek Airstrip in Idaho.

The Nez Perce Smokejumpers became official when 8 Jumpers were sent permanently over from Missoula in 1951. That year also saw 5 Jumpers sent from Missoula to begin the West Yellowstone Base and the addition of Jumpers to the already staffed base in Silver City, New Mexico.

At present, about 30 Jumpers are stationed at the Grangeville Air Center (GAC), making it one of the smaller bases in the Smokejumping world. GAC is home to a DeHaviland Twin Otter Jump Plane (Jump 14), a helitack program next door, and several other aviation overhead.

 
 

Qualifications to be a Smokejumper

Vision: Distance vision of greater than 20/100 Snellen in one eye and 20/200 in the other eye is not allowed. Corrected vision greater than 20/20 in one eye and 20/30 in the other is permissible with the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses. Candidates must be able to read typewritten size characters and be able to pass the Eldridge-Green lantern test or one equivalent for color vision.

Hearing: Candidates must be able to hear the normal spoken voice at 20 feet in each ear and the whispered voice at 15 feet without the use of hearing aids.

Size: Applicants must be a minimum of 5 feet tall and a maximum of 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weigh at least 120 pounds but no more than 200.

Age: Prospective jumpers must be at least 18 years old.

Citizenship: Prospective jumpers must be United States citizens.

Experience: Smokejumper rookies must have at least one season (90 calendar days) of general forestry/agriculture experience and one season of wildland firefighting experience. Smokejumpers are assumed to have basic firefighting skills, and to know the work environment, as very little firefighting is taught in rookie training. Hotshot crew experience is optimal.

General Experience: Experience gained the field of forestry, range management, farming, ranching, fire control work, soil and water conservation is pertinent. One academic year of post-high school education at an accredited institution that includes at least 12 semester hours in courses such as forestry, conservation, range management, wildlife, agriculture, engineering or a related physical or natural science may be substituted for one season general experience.

Fire Experience: Experience as a member of an organized fire suppression crew in forest or range fire suppression work under mountainous terrain. This must have included training in fire suppression methods, techniques, and safety.

Note: Previous parachute training, either sport or military, is neither required nor advantageous for prospective smokejumpers.

Smokejumping requires a high degree of motivation, individual responsibility and initiative. Jumpers must be willing to work long, hard hours and be away from home for extended periods of time.

 

 
 

Grangeville Smokejumpers: (208) 983-1964

Base Manager: Randy Nelson

Operations Foreman: Robin Embry, Asst. Ops: Mike Blinn
Training Foreman: Brett Rogers, Asst. Training: Chris Herte
l
Loft Foreman: Chris Young, Asst. Loft: Nate Hesse
Squad leaders: Jodi Stone, Matt Smith, Shane Ralston

 

 
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Updated July 11, 2009 10:21