Seventy-five years ago this month Earl Cooley and Rufus Robinson parachuted onto an Idaho wildfire, put it out, and then hiked 28 miles to the nearest ranger station. It was the U.S. Forest Service’s first “live” jump.
Today more than 270 smokejumpers respond to fires in remote areas, relying on tools, food and water that are dropped to them by parachute. Without their hard work—in the field and at their home bases, training, maintaining equipment, getting ready for the next jump—far more time, money, natural resources, property, and probably lives would be lost to wildfire.
Stories of fires fought, of forests saved or lost, of heroes, are woven into the fabric of the mountain West and into the awareness of those who live here. We owe a deep debt to all who face down wildfire on our behalf, and this week is an especially good time to thank the many smokejumpers, men and women, who have followed those first two pioneers.