National Geographic : 1961 Mar
bulky in canvas coveralls. As the plane roared away, we could hear the jumpers calling back and forth - voices eerily suspended in mid-air -to avoid floating into each other (opposite). They somersaulted on the strip, dumped the air from their chutes, and stripped off their gear. The plane circled to drop two packs of fire-fighting equipment by parachute. Smokejumpers can fight a forest fire with in minutes of its discovery. Later, when we visited their base at Intercity Airport, half way between Winthrop and Twisp, we watched the jumpers going through their physical training period (below)-"happy hour," they call it. They looked like a foot ball squad of tanned, beefy youngsters as they swung along a horizontal ladder, climbed ropes, jumped, and rolled. "Most are college kids," said Francis Luf Simulating a treetop landing, a Forest Service smokejumper swings from a rafter. His padded suit absorbs the shock of crashes into branches. From a leg pocket the jump er extracts a 100-foot nylon line and lowers himself to the ground. Exercise on the "torture rack" keeps smokejumpers in top condition. These young men, mostly college students, main tain a 24-hour alert in summer. Flying only minutes after the alarm sounds, they jump into smoking forests. Fire-fighting equip ment floats down behind.