Smoke Jumper Jobs
If hotshot crews are the Forest Service's Marines, then the smokejumpers are the Green Berets. Smokejumpers are firefighting's lunatic fringe. As if fighting forest fires weren't adventurous enough, smokejumpers start the day off with a low-altitude parachute jump into the burning forest! Smokejumpers are flown into hot areas that hotshot crews and other firefighters cannot reach. Usually the fire is in the early stages of development in an area inaccessible to ground transportation.
Smokejumpers jump in groups of two to ten—with about 100 pounds of equipment apiece—and spend three to five days fighting the fire. When finished, they gather together their equipment and pack it out to the nearest access road, which is often many miles away. Smokejumpers must furnish their own boots, as well as a knife and a watch. Jumpsuits are self-made during training and specialized gear is provided by the Forest Service.
Smokejumpers are expected to know how to fight fires before they arrive at training camp. At least one season (three to six months) of wilderness firefighting experience is required of all applicants. This experience must include instruction in basic firefighting techniques. The best way to get this experience is to work as a regular firefighter for the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, or a state forest.
Unlike other jobs with the Forest Service, would-be smokejumpers must pass specific requirements to be considered for employment. Those requirements are outlined below. Furthermore, this elite firefighting group must also attend a "boot camp" where additional testing and training take place. Firefighting crews are made up of men and women who love hard work, adventure, and wilderness. Most people have trouble understanding why anyone would take a job as dangerous and demanding as a forest firefighter's.