In the Air and on the Ground With Alaskan Smokejumpers

In the Air and on the Ground With Alaskan Smokejumpers

Being an Alaskan smokejumper might be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Like firefighters, smokejumpers are brought in to battle wildfires and other fire-related incidents—except they’re not coming in on a siren-blaring truck. They’re jumping out of planes.

“Smokejumpers parachute in to remote places to quickly put out fires while they’re still small,” says photographer Mark Thiessen, who recently embedded with a team of smokejumpers in Alaska for the May 2019 issue of National Geographic. “In the lower 48 states, most of the smokejumper fires are an acre or less.”

But Alaska’s a different story. It’s vast with little to no roads in some areas, meaning smokejumpers have to squelch small fires and large conflagrations.

Mark Thiessen / National Geographic

The training process to become an Alaskan smokejumper is extremely grueling. Thiessen says around … Read the rest