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Smoke jumpers play vital part in major wildfires

Smoke jumpers parachute from planes ahead of a fire to try and stop it, as well as provide relief for those already fighting fire on the ground

Posted: Nov 29, 2018 9:55 PM
Updated: Dec 2, 2018 11:26 PM

HANCOCK COUNTY, Iowa - Battling the recent California wildfires required efforts from the ground and sky, and smoke jumpers did their part by parachuting out of airplanes ahead of the fire to try and stop it.

Smoke jumping began in 1939 by the U.S. Forest Service; currently, there are about 320 smoke jumpers that work from seven bases in the Western U.S.

Jim Cherry is the former President of the National Smokejumper Association, which is dedicated to 'preserving the history and lore of smokejumping, maintaining and restoring our nation's forest and rangeland resources and responding to special needs of smokejumpers and their families.'

He is a veteran smoke jumper himself, and knows how vital they are when it comes to fighting a fire, especially one located in rugged, remote terrain.

"Much faster and better pay load and speed than you have with helicopters, and definitely more than you have with trucks and people having to walk over mountainous terrain for mile after mile, being worn out by the time they get to the fire."

He's also seen the changes in both the fire season getting longer and the increasing severity of fires, adding that changes to current policies can help mitigate and manage them.

"Some of what can be done is to clear cut those areas, to lop and scatter the debris, and to burn that off."

Officials announced on Sunday that the Camp fire in Northern California is completely contained. Paradise residents could begin returning early next week, but only if recent overnight rainfall doesn't hinder efforts to clear roads and restore power.

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