I'm only about a week behind now. Last Sunday, the 18th, we toured the Smokejumper facility in Missoula. This is headquarters for 65 elite firefighters who parachute out of perfectly good airplanes to fight wildfires. Believe it or not, people actually want to do this. In fact, I believe our tour guide said they had over 100 applications for the four available positions this year. They are most effective as rapid response for new or emerging fires.
When a smokejumper arrives on site, he is equipped with enough supplies to make him self-sufficient for up to 72 hours.
If special equipment or extra supplies are needed, they are dropped with little parachutes.
Our tour guide was a really cute young lady and really kept our attention - especially the guys. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of her, just the back of her interesting t-shirt.
I think the most surprising fact we learned was that the smokejumpers sew their own Kevlar jumpsuits. I guess having sewing skills would give you an edge on the application.
While we were there, a team was called out, leaving none of the smokejumpers at the facility. I didn't know that or I would have been chasing them with the camera. After our tour, we did see one of the planes.
The back of the plane was unusual, although they jump out of the door on the side.
And we saw one of the planes that carry the flame retardant.
Well, here's where the 'Ooops' of the title comes in. Later that day, we were surprised to see a plume of smoke over the mountains to the west. Maybe that's where the smokejumpers had gone. Later I heard that lightening had ignited four separate fires the night before. Two were extinguished and the other two joined together to form the Lolo Complex fire. By the next afternoon, it looked like this.
And that evening, we had a very colorful sunset.
The following night, we could actually see the fire come over the ridge!
And the moon was ominous.
Good news, bad news. The daily afternoon winds that were spreading the fire stopped after that which was very good. But those winds had kept the smoke from settling on us. By the time we left town on the 22nd, they were getting a handle on the fire, but this is what the whole area was dealing with.
Now for the really silly news. We are once again crossing Idaho from east to west - back up to Lookout Pass for a night, then on. I feel like our planning was really bad this year. Or maybe it was a total lack of a plan. Right now we're just trying to stay away from the smoke of all the fires.
Our hearts go out to all the brave firefighters who risk their lives every day to save the lives and property of others. It's another job I could never do but am eternally grateful that somebody does.