The Methow Valley is the birthplace of smokejumping. Here in the fall of 1939, the first experimental jumps were made, proving that firefighters could safely parachute into the rugged, timbered mountains to attack wildfires. Using the Forest Service’s SR-10 Stinson, a group of jumpers, including Francis Lufkin and George Honey, both fire guards from the Okanogan (then called Chelan) National Forest, made 58 experimental parachute jumps. These jumps helped determine under what conditions smokejumpers could safely land in inaccessible mountain areas.
These successful experiments led to the establishment of the two operational bases in 1940, one at Ninemile Camp, near Missoula, Montana and the other in the Methow Valley. The first active jump on a fire was 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, 10 miles west of the North Cascade Smokejumper Base.
Today the USFS and BLM have over 400 smokejumpers at nine primary locations in the western U.S. and Alaska.