Smokejumpers gear up to fly to a wildfire

Smokejumpers gearing up wildfire
Smokejumpers gearing up for a wildfire in Alaska. Screenshot from the BLM video below.

Many people would be surprised at the extent and complexity of the gear that smokejumpers must put on before they parachute into a wildfire.

From the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service:


When the alarm sounds at the BLM Alaska Fire Service smokejumper base, these airborne firefighters spring into action, donning gear for a fire jump.

Typically, Alaska smokejumpers have two minutes to suit up and six minutes until wheels up. Airplanes, referred to as jump ships, that deliver smokejumpers to the airspace near a fire fly with closed doors, allowing Alaska smokejumpers to do their buddy checks in the airplane while en route.

In the Lower 48, because the airplanes fly with doors open due to the shorter distances to fires, these buddy checks for equipment are done on the ground, as seen in this video. This prolongs the time it takes to board the plane.

#Smokejumpers are highly qualified, safe and aggressive wildland firefighters who quickly and effectively respond to initial attack, extended attack and point protection missions, especially in rural Alaska.

This group of eight smokejumpers from the Lower 48 – seven from the U.S. Forest Service and one BLM smokejumper from Boise – were quickly headed to the Crater Creek Fire (#585), a new fire less than 10 miles northwest of Venetie.

Smokejumpers board their aircraft
Smokejumpers prepare to board their aircraft on the way to a wildfire in Alaska. Screenshot from the BLM video.

Typically, once the jump ship gets to the area, it will circle above the fire at 1,500 feet. The spotter will drop a couple of streamers to gauge wind speed and direction over the fire, and adjust accordingly before the USFS smokejumpers using round parachutes launch out a side door.

The plane then climbs to 3,000 feet and the smokejumpers using the square Ram-Air parachutes go through a similar process before launching. All the while, smokejumpers will look out the windows to survey the terrain and fire behavior on the ground before they jump out the door, formulating their flight path to the ground.

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One thought on “Smokejumpers gear up to fly to a wildfire”

  1. …interesting mix of footwear…Whites, low-heeled loggers, hiker-mountaineering, Altra ZeroDrops and Vans! Are they NFPA certified? Why aren’t they polished like a professional? lol 🙂

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