montana photograph Smokejumpers

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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.

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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.

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They’re supremely fit people, each given 90 minutes a day to devote to their own personal fitness routine.

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They jump wearing 100 pounds of firefighting and camping gear — enough to sustain their efforts unassisted for three days.

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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.

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Time not spent fighting fires is spent maintaining and repacking gear. Parachutes are inflated and inspected before being repacked.

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The hours are long and a lot of time is spent away from home and loved ones.

Read the story on the Bleacher Report blog here. See these pictures and more on my website here.

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