An Historic Smokejumper Base Comes Back to Life
Experience an exciting era when Jumpers parachuted into remote areas of our National Forests to extinguish lightning caused fires.
The Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum tells the story of early US Forest Service aerial wildfire suppression. Its story takes place in the remote and rugged forests of Southern Oregon and Northern California. Smokejumpers are highly trained firefighters who parachute from airplanes into remote forest fires to extinguish them while they are still small and controllable. Under favorable wind, temperature and fuel conditions, small fires, can grow to become major conflagrations, which destroy valuable forest resources, require large fire crews and are expensive to suppress. It is the job of smokejumpers to prevent this from happening.
One of the first smokejumper bases was opened by the USFS in 1943 and was located at Cave Junction, Oregon. This base was established as a response to various attempts by the Japanese during WW II to ignite massive forest fires throughout western forests: a strategy intended to disrupt America’s war effort by causing panic in the general population. (More information can be found at these sites. http://tinyurl.com/bmuhh7j http://tinyurl.com/9wmuvjs)
Siskiyou Smokejumper Base continued operation after the war and evolved over the years as one of four primary smokejumper bases located in Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. http://tinyurl.com/cbevoxv While in operation its crews were dispatched to thousands of lightning and human-caused fires throughout the western states, saving millions in resource damage and fire suppression costs. In 1981, after 38 years of firefighting distinction by 39 total crews, the U.S. Forest Service, in an effort to centralize resources, closed its base in Cave Junction.
Today, over 450 US Forest Service and BLM and smokejumpers, stationed at nine bases across the West and Alaska, still fulfill their original mission of keeping small fires small. Smokejumping remains a cost-effective firefighting strategy and continues to be an integral part of the team of pilots, air tankers, helicopters and ground crews which make up the modern wildfire fighting mix. (Smokejumper photos: http://spotfireimages.net/smjhome.html)
The restored smokejumper buildings which make up the museum are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and leased from Josephine County. The buildings are being renovated by a close knit group of over 200 ex-Cave Junction Smokejumpers and local volunteers. These jumpers still share a strong sense of comradery, and many meet each year for a week in June to visit, tell stories and continue restoration efforts.
Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and listed as a National Historic site. It features the oldest standing smokejumper parachute loft in North America. It is guided by a volunteer Board of Directors whose mission is to preserve and tell the legendary story of a extraordinary place and the crews who worked there.
On display are authentic smokejumper equipment including parachutes, jump suits and firefighting tools. A remarkable archival photo collection can be viewed, which brings to life the spirit and adventure of this exciting period in firefighting history. Soon, a mockup of an actual smokejumper airplane will be added to the exhibits.
Consider adding Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum to your travel plans. We hope to see you soon and we know you find your visit interesting and enjoyable.