montana photograph Smokejumpers
I had the great pleasure to work for the fine folks at Bleacher Report this summer on a story about smokejumpers — women and men who jump out of perfectly good airplanes into forest fires. I spent a couple of days at the Aerial Fire Center in West Yellowstone, Mont.
The jumpers are an elite group — experts at a variety of skills who have worked their way up through the ranks of Forest Service fire fighting.
They’re supremely fit people, each given 90 minutes a day to devote to their own personal fitness routine.
They jump wearing 100 pounds of firefighting and camping gear — enough to sustain their efforts unassisted for three days.
And the gear they use is so specialized, they must make most of it themselves. And what they don’t manufacture, they often adapt from other applications.
Time not spent fighting fires is spent maintaining and repacking gear. Parachutes are inflated and inspected before being repacked.
The hours are long and a lot of time is spent away from home and loved ones.