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Smokejumper  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotSmokejumpers help to put out fires in areas difficult to reach by usual means. It's a dangerous job. The select few who make up smokejumping crews join a long tradition of jumping. This includes jumping into some of the most demanding and exhilarating conditions known to man.

dotSmokejumpers parachute into remote areas to contain wildfires. Once on the ground, they work for long hours under extreme weather conditions. They are exposed to smoke, intense heat and fumes.

dotDepartments that hire jumpers include the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Army.

On-the-job training teaches observation skills, fire reporting and safety procedures. As well, technical skills for using fire tracking and communications equipment are taught.

dotThere are few women employed as smokejumpers, but female representation is increasing.

Margarita Phillips can boast 11 seasons as a smokejumper. Now she's training as a spotter. A spotter is the person who tests the wind, picks a good jump spot and signals jumpers when to step out of the plane.

dotCan you do seven pull-ups, 25 push-ups, 45 sit-ups, run 1.5 miles in 11 minutes and carry a 110-pound pack three miles in under 90 minutes? Some agencies that hire smokejumpers require this level of physical fitness.

At a Glance

The elite paratroopers of the firefighting world

  • Work for long hours under extreme conditions
  • Physical fitness is a must
  • Forest firefighting experience is usually required