As you know we have been camping in Eastern Washington for a week now and have been running away from the forest fires. Before we were evacuated from Twisp we had visited the Smokejumpers complex just outside of Winthrop. This is the first opportunity I’ve had to post that story.
Oh by the way we are safely ensconced at the Suncrest Resort in Moses Lake and there are no fires around!
While in Twisp we decided to visit the birth place of smoke jumping just outside of Winthrop, called the “North Cascades Smoke Jumpers Base”, it’s where, in 1939, Francis Lufkin developed the “smokejumper’s” technique’s that are still practiced today throughout the country. In the United States there are some 400 smokejumpres spread over nine bases.
They are “undeniably the most highly trained and fastest deployable wildland firefighters available today.”
Ironically we visited the base in the midst of five forest fires around our campground and the Twisp area. There were almost no smokejumpers at the base as they were all out fighting the fires but Jason Ramos, one of the remaining firefighter’s on standby, gave us a great tour of the facility and shared many stories about the smokejumpers with us. Since then the fires have merged and become the Carlton Complex Fire burning 238,000 acres and is zero percent contained at this time.
The following pictures are from the base but sadly without nearly as much narrative as Jason provided.
We knew we had arrived when we saw the welcome sign.
The first thing you see as you approach the buildings is the “Birthplace of Smokejumping” sign.
Underneath it reads:
First stop was the parachute packing building. This sign caught my eye as the bird’s wings were made from gloves.
Inside Jason explained the protective jump suit to Marilyn. What’s most interesting is that the firefighters all sew their own special clothing. The suit they wear when jumping has Kevlar in it which protects them from tree branches and such when parachuting into treed terrain.
There were long tables used for folding and packing their parachutes. Everyone packed parachutes for anybody and not just their own.
Here Jason is explaining everything that they “jump” with when going into a fire.
We went to the building where they prepare all the other equipment that gets dropped along with them. It’s things like chainsaws, buck saw, food, water and much more. This pallet contains everything they should need and it will all be dropped to them once they are safely on the ground. It gets dropped from around 500 feet in the air.
Ten smokejumpers and all this gear go into their CASA C-212-CC.
The cockpit is very small but leaves lots of room for the troops.
The seats are for the smokejumpers and the equipment goes behind the cargo net.
While walking around there were many other “assets” being deployed to fight the fires including this big helicopter with the water drop bag hanging underneath.
I thought this sign sort of said it all about the smokejumpers.
We’d really like to thank Jason for such a great tour and especially thank all the men and women off the “Smokejumpers” for all they do to help protect the people and property in the path of these forest firers.