The Missoula Smokejumpers are elite wildland firefighters who parachute into isolated areas to fight fires. Their base and main training area is Missoula, Montana. The organization also provides tours of their compound. We visited the training center prior to hitting the road east.
Except for parachutes, they put together and sew their own gear in their own sewing room.
When not in use, their parachutes are hung from the ceiling in the parachute room.
In the parachute folding room, the long tables are used to fold the parachutes. The jumpers do not fold their own chutes. Several master jumpers/folders fold all of the chutes.
Former Montana residents, and guardians of the parachute folding room, watch your every move.
Above is a DC 3, fueled, loaded and ready to fly. Supplies to be dropped are secure and ready to go. Our tour was rather small and we were allowed aboard the aircraft for a look around.
A senior Smokeumper gave a small presentation on what takes place just prior to, and during, exit from the airplane. Some jumpers are on static lines (shoot pulled open as they exit) and drop under round chutes. These jumpers will exit the plane about 1,000 feet above the drop zone. The parachutists not on a static line exit the airplane at about 3,000 feet. They have more maneuverable rectangular chutes and drop faster than the round chutes. However, they don’t freefall; they have a streamer chute attached to them for stability until they open their main chutes. They can't freefall very well since they are heavily laden with gear.
Most of the aircraft used to drop slurry are under contract with the Forest Service. They also have a base in Missoula. Above is a slurry bomber at the retardant loading area.
I think this jet is also a slurry bomber; it was parked at the slurry loading station for a while. This was a fun tour and very low key. Firefighters were milling around in most of the rooms while we were there. Many were packed and ready to jump that day.
Next stop, hey, Boo Boo – Yellowstone!