Fire - West Yellowstone Smoke Jumpers
West Yellowstone Interagency Fire Center
Smokejumper/Air Tanker Base
WYIFC is located two miles north of the Yellowstone National Park Gateway community of West Yellowstone, MT, 90 miles south of Bozeman, MT and 100 miles northeast of Idaho Falls, Idaho. The base was established in 1951 at the old airport just west of town and then moved to its present location in 1965.
During the summer the base is home to 21 smokejumpers, pilots for the jump plane and retardant tanker, an office manager and a tanker base manager. The base also supports visiting jumpers, tankers and other aerial resources during times of high fire activity.
West Yellowstone jumpers and tanker are considered national resources. While attached to the Gallatin National Forest with a primary response area of the Gallatin, Shoshone, Beaverhead/Deerlodge, Targhee, Bridger/Teton and Custer National Forests and Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, they can be dispatched anywhere in the country to respond to wildfire.
The West Yellowstone smokejumper base is one of nine permanent smokejumper bases located throughout the western United States.
Smokejumpers are members of a community of wildland firefighters whose job it is to suppress fires in remote sections of our nation's forests and range. They are trained to jump out of airplanes in order to fulfill their primary mission, getting to fires fast before they have a chance to get big. As primary firefighters, smokejumpers may travel to fire by parachute, helicopter, vehicles, by foot; whatever mode of transportation is most efficient.
Wildland fire fighting is rigorous work and jumpers have the additional stress of the actual jump and then packing out whatever gear is necessary to fight the fire when the job is done, sometimes packing as much as 115 or more pounds of gear many miles to get to a road. Jumpers are also used for a variety of other jobs depending on their individual skills including, tree climbing, blasting and prescribed fire. Most smokejumpers are temporary or seasonal employees that work the fire season from June through September. A few, mainly supervisors, have permanent full-time status and work year round on equipment, training, prescribed fire, and administration.
Jump aircraft are all fixed wing aircraft such as Twin Otters, Casas, Sherpas, DC-3s and Dorniers to quickly access areas up to hundreds of miles from the base within a few hours. West Yellowstone contracts a Dornier 228-202, which is capable of delivering eight jumpers and their gear.
Smokejumper duties can be extremely arduous and hazardous. Jumpers must be in excellent physical condition and possess a high degree of emotional stability and mental alertness. The job often involves prolonged periods when smoke, heat, and short supplies of food and water take their toll on your physical stamina. The safety and well being of each smokejumper on an assignment depends on the ability of each individual to pull his/her own weight.
Smokejumpers must pass the standard firefighter's Work Capacity Fitness Test (pack test) at the arduous level. All smokejumper candidates are required to pass the standard smokejumper physical training (PT) test on the first day of smokejumper training. Candidates must do 7 pull-ups/chin-ups, 45 sit-ups, 25 push-ups, and a 1.5 mile run in less than 11 minutes. The test is taken in one time frame with 5-minute breaks between specific exercises.
Remember, these are just the minimums. Much more is required during rookie training. For instance, one of the most demanding physical requirements of the job is the gear pack-out. Smokejumper gear and tools weigh up to 115 pounds per person. Smokejumpers must be able to carry this gear to the nearest trail, road, or helispot after suppressing the fire. This may be a distance of 10 miles or more in rough terrain. During training, smokejumper candidates are required to demonstrate their ability to pack 110 pounds of gear a distance of three miles in 90 minutes or less, over a level course.
In addition to passing the physical training test, prospective smokejumpers must meet the following requirements:
Age: Must be at least 18 years old.
Height: Must be not more than 77 inches or less than 60 inches tall without shoes.
Weight: Must weigh at least 120 pounds but no more than 200 pounds without clothes.
Hearing: Must not have acute or chronic disease of the external, middle, or inner ear. Using an audiometer for measurement, there should be no loss of 25 or more decibels in each ear at the speech frequency range. A hearing aid is not permitted.
Vision: Must be free from acute or chronic eye disease. Corrected distant vision must test at least 20/20 (Snellen) in one eye and at least 20/30 (Snellen) in the other. Individuals must be able to read printed material the size of standard typewritten characters. Glasses or contacts used for eye correction are permitted.
Smokejumper trainees must demonstrate a high level of proficiency in the various aspects of parachute jumping and other smokejumper-related tasks, which are taught during the training period. These tasks include: Aircraft exiting procedures, Fire on the plateau Parachute maneuvering and emergency procedures, Parachute landing rolls, Timber let down procedures, Parachute and cargo retrieval and Tree Climbing.
Fifteen training jumps are conducted during the training period, beginning with jumps into the simplest terrain and progressing into more difficult terrain. Performance is continually evaluated during the training period and those persons unable to perform up to the standard of proficiency required will be terminated from the program and placed in another job, if available. These performance-based skills are essential for safely continuing in the program and three unsatisfactory performances will result in termination of the trainee. Upon successful completion of training, the recruits will be placed on the jump list and made available for fire assignments.
Hiring takes place annually, usually Oct. through Dec. All applicants must have specialized work experience including at least 3 continuous months of wildland fire suppression experience as a member of an organized fire suppression crew or comparable unit, in forest and range fire suppression work under mountainous terrain and fuel conditions such as those found in the western United States.
Rookies are hired at the GS-5 level with a wage of about $12.00 per hour.
For more information log onto the USAJOBS - Job Search website (http://jobsearch.usajobs.opm.gov/) and enter keyword smokejumper. If applying for a job online BE SURE TO READ THE ENTIRE APPLICATION. A supplemental information form must be included that is referred to in the vacancy announcement.
After jumping the smokejumpers receive cargo including sleeping bags, water and firefighting tools via parachute from the jump plane. In addition supplying jumpers with cargo the jump ship is available to supply large fires or support other remote operations with paracargo.
West Yellowstone's air tanker base is located just across the ramp from the smokejumper loft. The Mixmaster at the base combines a powdered mixture, which contains clay, fertilizer and red dye with water and then pumps it into the air tanker to deliver to the fire.
During the fire season a Lockheed Orion P-3 is based at West Yellowstone to support fire-fighting activities in the area. The P-3 is capable of hauling 2,550 gallons of fire suppressing retardant to help slow the spread of fire. The speed, range and carrying capacity of heavy airtankers such as the P-3, P-2V, SP2H, DC-4, DC-6 and DC-7, make them very effective tools for assisting fire fighters on the ground.
Address: West Yellowstone Interagency Fire Center
PO Box 610
West Yellowstone, MT 59758
Tours of the base are available in the summer, work load permitting, call us or stop by.
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