What Does a Smokejumper Do?


Quick Answer

Confronting wildfire season in the western United States requires much more than a couple of fire trucks and a few firefighters. The blazes can be so intense and far-reaching that specialized firefighters have to parachute into the forests and attempt to control the flames. These specially trained professionals are known as smokejumpers.

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What Does a Smokejumper Do?
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Full Answer

When wildfires spread to remote forested areas that are inaccessible by roads, smokejumpers are flown in as the initial line of defense. Smokejumpers parachute 15,000 feet down to the earth and then begin the physically intensive task of digging trenches in order to contain the spreading fire. Although they have chainsaws to clear away small trees, most of the work is completed with specialized hand tools. Smokejumpers are also given enough food and water to last them two days in the wilderness.

Because of the job’s physical demands, smokejumpers must meet strict fitness requirements: they must be able to complete a set number of pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups, as well as run 1½ miles in under 11 minutes. Additionally, they must complete treks of up to 3 miles while carrying heavy packs.

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