Record number of smokejumpers operating in Alaska

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A record number of smokejumpers were operating in Alaska last week, which was more than half of all smokejumpers on-roster in the nation.

Smokejumpers in Alaska

Many of the jumpers were brought up from the Lower 48 to assist Alaska crews for the fire season.

"The smokejumpers' primary mission is to protect the lives, property, and resources in Alaska,” said Bill Cramer, Chief of Alaska Smokejumpers with Alaska Fire Service. “All of these have been threatened during the course of this fire season."

On July 14, there were 206 smokejumpers operating in Alaska.

“When multiple areas are busy, we’re short on what we need,” Cramer said. Cramer said that Alaska has called in jumpers from out of state since the late 50s.

“We’re basically wildland firefighters like everyone else,” said Missoula smokejumper captain Charles Savoia. “We go out there to help suppress fires and direct them, slow them. The only difference between us and them is we get there by jumping out of an airplane via parachute.”

Cramer said that he is expecting smokejumpers to be busy for the next few months.

"We're expecting to stay busy for up to a couple more months out here,” he said. “We have pretty high odds of this continuing and it being a record-breaking year in a slew of record-breaking years."

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