The Birth of the Smokejumpers
Smokejumping was born on the Nez Perce National Forest. It was on the Nez Perce National Forests’s Moose Creek Ranger District that Rufus Robinson of Kooskia, Idaho and Earl Cooley, of Hamilton, Montana, made the nation’s first “live” fire jump, at the Martin Creek Fire on July 12, 1940. Robinson’s and Cooley’s squad had been positioned by the Northern Region Smokejumper Program at the remote Moose Creek Ranger Station, where a parachute loft was built in 1941 to better accommodate Smokejumper operations in this vicinity.
In 1951, the Region One jumpers established a base at Grangeville in order to facilitate initial attack operations across the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests and on adjacent lands. In 1972, however, the Nez Perce National Forest assumed direct administration of the Grangeville unit, with Geof Hochmuht hired in the spring of 1973 as the first “Grangeville Smokejumper” rookie. Since the subsequent integration of fire management operations on the Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests, the Grangeville Smokejumper program has remained under the administrative auspices of the Nez Perce-Clearwater fire management zone.
Nez Perce Smokejumping Statistics
Over 9,000 fire jumps have been made out of Grangeville since the establishment of smokejumper operations in 1951. Over 2,500 fires have been staffed by aerial delivery of smokejumpers. In busier seasons, the base has delivered smokejumpers to well over 100 fires with the average number of smokejumpers per fire averaging around 3.5.