North Cascades Smokejumper Base

Overview | Historical Smokejumper Photos | A National Resource- Smokejumpers help manage forest resources

North Cascades Smokejumper Base
23 Airport Road
Winthrop, WA 98862

Smokejumpers parachuting into the North CascadesThe Forest Service began with experimental trials here in the fall of 1939. These early jumps proved that firefighters could safely parachute into the rugged timbered mountains to suppress wildfires, minimizing suppression cost and the loss of timber resources. Today the Department of Agriculture-Forest Service and the Department of the Interior-Bureau of Land Management have almost 400 smokejumpers at nine primary locations in the western United States and Alaska. The North Cascades Smokejumper Base provides initial fire attack for the forests of central and northern Washington State.

Historical Photographs



The Eagle Parachute Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was one of the first commercial parachute companies in the United States. They were instrumental in proving the feasibility of parachuting into "rough" terrain. The parachuter in this photo is descending in the Eagle Forester C. This parachute was used in the 1939 study.

testing parachute


Francis Lufkin

Ready for his first jump during the 1939 experiment is pioneer smokejumper Francis Lufkin. Francis, a local fire guard, headed up the North Cascade Base from 1940 until his retirement in 1972.



The Methow Valley is considered the "birthplace of smokejumping." The initial experimental jumps were made during the fall of 1939 using the first Forest Service aircraft, an SR-10 Stinson. Parachutes from the Eagle Parachute Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Forest Service fire guards Francis Lufkin and George Honey from the Okanogan (then Chelan) National Forest, made 58 experimental parachute jumps "to determine under what conditions firefighters or smokechasers, trained as parachute jumpers, could safely land in inaccessible mountainous areas."


two smokejumpers

These successful experiments led to the establishment of two operational bases in 1940, one near Missoula, Montana, and the other in the Methow Valley at Winthrop, Washington. The first actual jump on a fire was made in Idaho in 1940 by two Montana-based jumpers, Earl Cooley and Rufus Robinson. Shortly after, Francis Lufkin and Glen Smith made the first wildfire jumps in the Pacific Northwest region to Little Bridge Creek, 10 miles west of the North Cascade Smokejumper Base. In the 1940's and 50's additional bases were established in Idaho, Oregon, California, and Alaska.

A National Forest Resource

Smokejumpers help manage national forest resources

tree climber

What do we Provide? To start with, we provide wildland fire initial attack with quick self-sufficient fire suppression. We have division and group supervisors (Type 3,4), incident commanders, air attack, task force and strike team leaders, etc., to offer on larger incidents. Wildfire is our primary function, however, we have many other skills and services relating to fire and forestry. Some of the other areas we support are:

Prescribed Fire and Fuels Treatment   We have been providing qualified burn bosses, holders, and lighters to, and doing prep work for, forests locally and nationally since the 1970's.

Certified Tree Climbers   For wildlife work, hazardous limb and tree removal and cone collection.

Certified Sawyers   For line construction, tree removal, rehabilitation, and tree thinning.

Trail Construction & Recreation   Assisting local districts with bridge building and tread construction.

Certified Loft Facilities We provide 4 master riggers and 10 senior riggers for equipment maintenance and repair. We also design and construct line gear packs for hotshot crews and rappeller harnesses for national use.

Training   We supply instructors for regional interagency training in aviation management, safety, and wildland fire for Eastern Washington and beyond.