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Don Ranstrom: Smokejumping, Hands Down Best Job I Ever Had


March 11, 2020

Square chute smokejumpers land in Alaska to fight a fire. Don used a circular shoot that served a similar purpose with a little less maneuverability. "The Black Spruce at the bottom of the pic was a tool we often used in Alsaka. When you landed you would select one about 8' tall and you delimit (Cut off all the limbs to where you have a big stick with a big swatter at the top that you can use to fight the fire). When the actual flame is extinguished you very seldom have it relight. First thing is to get the perimeter knocked down to where it doesn't spread. This is only in Alaska and only where you have black spruce," said Ranstrom. "On the Tundra you would use a shovel to knock down the flame."

Too many of us "Smokejumpers" are a summertime fire fighting crew that cash in during the fire season, but in reality they are a highly trained and elite firefighting unit that is actively engaged in rigorousness training, fitness and skilled in advanced fire fighting techniques. When not deployed to a fire they are in constant training at one of the facilities in the Western United States.

Montana is home to two Smokejumper Bases, one located in Missoula and the other in West Yellowstone. Smokejumpers deploy to the most severe fires usually located in rough wilderness terrain that require...

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