Dropping in with the smokejumpers

Category: Human Interest


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. preventative / prɪˈvɛn tə tɪv / (adj.) – intended to stop something that one does not want to happen, such as an illness or an accident

    The doctor shared some preventative measures to avoid diseases.

  2. safeguard / ˈseɪfˌgɑrd / (v.) – to protect or keep something safe from harm or damage

    The policies were set to safeguard the consumers.

  3. readiness / ˈrɛd i nɪs / (n.) – the state of being prepared for something

    The mayor is promoting community readiness in case of flooding.

  4. bail out / beɪl aʊt / (phrasal v.) – to jump out of a plane with a parachute

    The plane’s engine failed, so the passengers were forced to bail out.

  5. mechanism / ˈmɛk əˌnɪz əm / (n.) – a special way of doing something that is planned or part of a system

    The school has established an effective student support mechanism.


Read the text below.

As wildfires prove to be a growing threat in the United States, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is furthering its preventative and response measures.

The USDA’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy aims to safeguard communities by increasing fuel treatments, promoting community readiness and supporting post-fire recovery and restoration. An integral part of this plan is the Smokejumpers, an elite group of firefighters who bail out of planes into remote fires. The forest service has about 320 smokejumpers that work from seven bases, and The Associated Press was given access to the Missoula, Montana location.

“Smokejumping was created to be able to insert wildland firefighters into areas of the forest that are remote and either unable to be accessed by foot or vehicle or would be untimely to do so. So let’s say there’s lightning that comes through the area and there’s remote wildfires we can get there quickly,” said Smokejumper Madison Whittemore.

The risks involved with smokejumping are great, and it takes a skilled and specific kind of person to do the work. The jumpers undergo physical tests during training, and they are not only efficient firefighters and parachuters but also skilled at sewing and patching the chutes themselves.

Bipartisan-supported funding has helped put USDA’s wildfire crisis plan into action by implementing forest health treatments on millions of acres across The United States.

Dan Hottle, of the Northern Region, said that the funding has been instrumental in making the plan work. “Funding through the bipartisan infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction Act, those types of funding mechanisms have been instrumental to us to be able to have the resources available to hire staff to have more cross-boundary work with our partners, state agencies, local agencies, all the way down to the homeowner to have that resource,” said Hottle.

When the smokejumpers are not barreling out of planes during peak fire season, they are out cleaning up forests and doing prescription fire work.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Given the chance, would you volunteer to become a smokejumper? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • The article mentions that smokejumping involves significant risks. What kind of compensation and recognition do you think smokejumpers deserve? What do you think motivates smokejumpers to take on this job? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The USDA’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy is promoting community readiness, among other things. Do you think this is important? Why or why not? Do you consider yourself ready in case of disasters, such as wildfires? Discuss.
  • In your opinion, is your community prepared for wildfires and other disasters? What more do you think can be done to ensure community readiness? Discuss.