All my life I've known about smokejumpers. They're the first line of offense for the brush and forest fires that plague the Northwest during late summer and early fall. But today we found out that you can actually tour the jumper base that's near Twisp. We were on the last day of a road trip through B.C., Montana, Idaho, and Washington, and wrapped the tour into our day. Glad we did.
Did you know that smoke jumping originated here in the North Cascades? We didn't. That was just one bit of fascinating information we learned during our hour tour, which included watching a FAA-certified parachute packer folding and packing the chutes that just came back from a drop, exploring the plane that takes the jumpers to a fire zone, and learning about the gear the jumpers carry, and the extra gear that's dropped with them.
Jumpers go first into a fire zone, hoping to contain a small fire before it blows up out of control. If they can't do this, they often cut out a helicopter landing zone so ground crews can be brought in to fight the fire. If there's no road out, they walk out.