the Grangeville Smokejumpers
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.
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.
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.
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.
here to see the current status of Smokejumpers
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.
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.
to be a Smokejumper
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
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.
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.
Smokejumpers: (208) 983-1964
Base Manager: Randy Nelson
Foreman: Robin Embry, Asst. Ops: Mike Blinn
Training Foreman: Brett Rogers, Asst.
Training: Chris Hertel
Loft Foreman: Chris
Young, Asst. Loft: Nate Hesse
leaders: Jodi Stone, Matt Smith, Shane