Frequently Asked Questions
What are Smokejumpers?
Smokejumpers are wildland firefighters trained to parachute into fires. Their primary mission is fire suppression and with the speed, range, and capacity of their fixed-wing aircraft, smokejumpers are capable of quickly delivering as few as two or as many as 20 firefighters, with equipment and supplies, directly to the fire in a single trip.
As primary firefighters, smokejumpers may travel to fire by parachute, helicopter, vehicles, by foot, or whatever mode of transportation is most efficient. Smokejumpers are a versatile national resource and are commonly used in small teams and as 20-person Type I fire crews. Their high level of training, experience, and qualifications enable smokejumpers to provide leadership such as Type III Incident Commanders, Division Supervisors, Strike Team Leaders, and Air Tactical Group Supervisors on fire assignments and fire teams. Smokejumpers are also called upon to provide rescue and first-aid services on fires and other emergencies in rugged and remote locations.
Who are Smokejumpers?
Smokejumpers are professional firefighters. Many have
over 10 seasons of fire experience and some have over 20. Many have advanced
degrees in fire management, ecology, forestry, engineering, sociology,
biology, and various other sciences. Smokejumpers are a varied group coming
from diverse backgrounds. Seasonal employees include teachers, students,
ski industry professionals, construction workers, trades technicians,
missionaries, security personnel, artists, National Guard, doctors and
Most new McCall Smokejumpers are already very experienced firefighters, having been recruited from other top fire crews such as helitack, engine, and hotshot crews across the nation (see recruitment). All smokejumpers must be in excellent physical condition because of the demanding nature of the job. Smokejumper recruits learn the basics of rugged terrain parachuting during an intense five week training course in smokejumper and fire management operations. Returning jumpers receive a two week refresher course. Crew Boss and type 4 Incident Commander fire qualifications, and an FAA Parachute Rigger certification for every smokejumper is one of the training goals at the McCall Smokejumper base. Advanced fire-related skills such as Division Boss, C-Faller, Fireline Explosives Blaster, Incident Commander, or Prescribed Fire Burn Boss are developed on an individual basis. McCall smokejumpers attend 8-24 hours of medical training during their annual refresher. Many Smokejumpers go on to achieve their EMT-B certification.
Smokejumpers can spend their entire summer on fire assignments away from their home base. However, when not on fire assignments, smokejumpers maintain a high state of readiness. Daily work may include packing cargo boxes for fires, inspecting, repairing, and packing parachutes, equipment manufacturing and equipment maintenance for fire and other forest crews, fleet and facility maintenance, fire suppression training, and other miscellaneous jobs which keep them readily available for a quick fire response. Smokejumpers are also required to exercise daily and maintain a high level of physical fitness.
When smokejumpers are not putting out wildfires, they are often involved with prescribed fire. Fire is a natural and healthy part of good ecosystem management. Smokejumpers work with fire managers on planning and implementing prescribed fire to restore and maintain healthy forests and reduce the risks of dangerous wildfire.
If the fire season permits, smokejumpers assist in project work on local national forests and ranger districts. This work commonly includes prescribed fire planning and implementation, brush disposal, fence construction, trail maintenance, radio and Remote Automated Weather Station (RAWS) maintenance, timber work, fisheries work, forest rehabilitation, and tree cone collection.
What Are the Terms of Smokejumper Employment?
Smokejumpers are employed by the federal government.
Although smokejumping often provides a career target or goal for many
wildland firefighters, career opportunities are limited. Most smokejumpers
are temporary or seasonal employees that work the fire season from June
through September. A few, mainly supervisors, have permanent extended
or full-time status and work year round on equipment, training, prescribed
fire, and administration. A smokejumper earns around $16.00 per hour while
a smokejumper foreman earns about $24.00 per hour. Smokejumpers are paid
nothing extra for making parachute jumps; however, they do receive hazard
pay equivalent to 25 percent of their base pay when working on an uncontrolled
Smokejumpers are required to pass an annual physical examination by a licensed physician. Medical attention and hospitalization is provided if firefighters are injured in the line of duty, and if periods of disability result from such accidents, they are provided with compensation based on their income.
What Kind of Facilities Are at the McCall Smokejumper Base?
A parachute loft towers above the 2-story Smokejumper
Base located at a USFS airport ramp at the McCall City Airport. The downstairs
area houses the paracargo bays, ready room speed racks, smokejumper offices,
operations center, and the parachute loft with rigging tables and sewing
machines. Upstairs are the training rooms, a conference room, the Payette
National Forest Dispatch office and fire-training library. Smokejumper
parachute training facilities are located in the yard outside. There are
pilot offices, showers, a dressing room, saw shop, aircraft maintenance
shop and a weight training room located nearby. The McCall Tanker Base
is also located at the airport just adjacent to the jumper base to the
north. Government housing consisting of barracks and several married housing
units with kitchen facilities are located a few blocks north of the airport.