Thursday, August 25, 2011

Missoula Smokejumping School

Our friends Tom and DJ joined us at Missoula for a few days' visit before driving to Kalispell. We've not seen them since mid-June in Eugene, Oregon so there was lots for us to catch up on. 

We met Tom and DJ at Shady Oaks Campground in Orland, Maine last August and we've enjoyed visits along the way since then.
Wayne holding Lexie, Tom and DJ
With the great frequency of wildfires in this part of the country, (one in Yellowstone today as a matter of fact) Missoula has a Smokejumping base and we were fortunate to be able to tour the facility. While our tour guide left plenty to be desired, as she wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, we learned a lot about Smokejumping and the people who do it. 

Here's some of what we saw:
Smokejumpers parachute into a wildfire with all this apparatus and gear.

Personnel Lockers.
There are currently 85 smokejumpers who work out of the Missoula Base.
Their ages range from 20 to 50 years.

The parachute hanging room.
All chutes are numbered and hang onto the corresponding numbered hook for inspection.

The job of the smokejumper is to suppress wildfires in the mountainous terrain of the western United States.
This smokejumper is folding a parachute.  Better that he not be distracted.

From Alaska to New Mexico and from California to Wyoming, smokejumpers fight fires.
These are packaged cargo chutes.

Utilizing a fleet of fixed wing aircraft, including a Turbine DC-3, Twin Otter, and a Shorts Sherpa,
 firefighters can reach all parts of the country.

The museum part of the Smokejumping Base at Missoula included a replica fire tower which I found to be especially interesting. I guess it's the homemaker in me!

This mounted circular map is a 1934 Osborne Firefinder.
Readings from two lookouts determine the exact location of the fire.
Today an infrared scanner automatically detects fire locations.
Leaving the base, I took note of the sign along the roadside and thought a little more about the chance of a wildfire.
Today's Fire Danger is at "Very High"
And "Remember.... Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" 
 ... Smokey... da bear.

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