The McCall Smokejumper Base was started in 1943 when five jumpers, who were trained in Missoula, Montana, were stationed in McCall. The first fire jump out of the McCall base was made on August 14, 1943 by John Furguson and Lester Gohler at the head of Captain John Creek. The spotter was Stewart “Lloyd” Johnson who served as the base foreman through the summer of 1953.
In 1947, McCall trained 50 jumpers. As the smokejumper program grew, new buildings were added, and the base became a training center. Civilian Conservation Corps buildings were moved in for smokejumper operations, and training facilities were built.
A laundry building and three barrack buildings were constructed, and eight trailer houses were brought in for married jumpers in 1958. A new loft building was completed in 1959, and a kitchen was built in 1964. These buildings were located on Mission Street across from McCall-Donnelly High School, where the Payette National Forest supervisor’s office is today.
In 1948, ten jumpers were stationed at Idaho City, Idaho, with James “Smokey” Stover in charge. The Idaho City base moved to Boise in 1970. For almost 10 years, Boise had a smokejumper base until it closed after the 1979 season, swelling the number of jumpers in McCall from 55 to about 80. Again, as the crew expanded, so did the facilities. McCall saw the completion of a new smokejumper facility in 1988 at its present day location. The McCall Smokejumpers have come a long way since its early beginnings in 1943. Today, they provide support to the Western United States and Alaska. The seven national forests surrounding this core base annually average 1,000 fires.

TIMELINE

1934 – R-4 USFS RANGER, T.V. PEARSON, COMES UP WITH THE IDEA OF PARACHUTING PEOPLE IN TO FIGHT FIRE. IDEA ABANDONED AS TOO RISKY.

1935-1939 – DAVID GODWIN , ASSISTANT CHIEF OF FIRE CONTROL AT THE FOREST SERVICE W.O., HEADS AN AERIAL FIRE CONTROL EXPERIMENTAL PROJECT IN CALIFORNIA WHICH DETERMINES DROPPING WATER AND CHEMICALS BY AIR IS NOT FEASIBLE WITH CURRENT AIRCRAFT, BUT MUCH IS LEARNED ABOUT USING AIRPLANES AND DROPPING CARGO IN MOUNTAINOUS TERRAIN.

1939– GODWIN TRANSFERS HIS EXPERIMENTAL PROJECT TO A FOREST SERVICE INTERCITY AIRPORT IN REGION 6 BETWEEN TWISP AND WINTHROP WASHINGTON. EMPHASIS IS SHIFTED FROM BOMBING FIRES TO DEVELOPING A SAFE AND PRACTICAL METHOD OF DROPPING FIREFIGHTERS FROM THE AIR. THE INTITAL SMOKEJUMPER EXPERIMENTS ARE CONDUCTED DURING OCTOBER 5TH TO NOVEMBER 15TH. THE EAGLE PARACHUTE USED IS A THIRTY FOOT EXTENDED SKIRT, SILK CANOPY ORIGINALLY ATTATCHED TO THE HARNESS AND CONTAINER, THREE PIN, RIP CORD OPERATED WAS MODIFIED WITH V-RINGS ON RISERS AND SNAPS ON HARNESS DURING EXPERIMENTAL TESTS TO FACILITATE LET DOWNS FROM TREE LANDINGS.

1940– TWO SMOKEJUMPER TRAINING CENTERS WITH SIX SMOKEJUMPERS STATIONED AT WINTHROP WASHINGTON, AND SEVEN SMOKEJUMPERS AT SEELY LAKE MONTANA. ONE TAVELAIR PLANE IS USED FOR BOTH BASES. REGION ONE JUMPERS WERE LATER MOVED TO MOOSE CREEK FOR THE FIRE SEASON. THE FIRST FIRE JUMP WAS MADE ON JULY 12TH BY RUFUS ROBINSON AND EARL COOLEY OVER MARTIN CREEK IN THE NEZ PERCE NATIONAL FOREST IN IDAHO. FRANCIS LUFKIN AND GLEN SMITH MADE THE FIRST FIRE JUMP IN REGION SIX AT BRIDGE CREEK ON AUGUST 10TH. THE SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF THE MILITARY AND MAJOR WILLIAM CARY LEE WITH THREE STAFF OFFICERS UTILIZED FOREST SERVICE IDEAS IN ORGANIZING THE FIRST PARATROOP TRAINING FACILITY AT FORT BENNING, GEORGIA.

1941– SMOKEJUMPERS PARACHUTE “THE EAGLE” IS CHANGED FROM RIP CORD TO STATIC LINE.

1943– SMOKEJUMPER BASES WERE ESTABLISHED AT MCCALL, IDAHO AND CAVE JUNCTION, OREGON. LLOYD JOHNSON IS MCCALL’S BASE MANAGER AND THE FIRST FIRE JUMPED FROM MYL IS THE CPT. JOHN CREEK FIRE, ON THE IDAHO NF BY JOHN FERGUSON AND LESTER GAHLERAT. THE CIVILIAN PUBLIC SERVICE (CPS) WAS CREATED TO HELP PROVIDE VOLUNTARY SMOKEJUMPERS DURING THE WAR AND GAVE CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTORS A CHANCE TO SERVE THEIR COUNTRY.

THE FS-1 PARACHUTE, A 28’ FLAT CIRCULAR CANOPY WITH DERRY SLOTS AND GUIDELINES ATTACHED TO THE SKIRT AND CONNECTOR LINKS, IS PLACED IN SERVICE. THE COLOR IS CHANGED FROM ALL WHITE TO ALTERNATING ORANGE AND WHITE PANELS IN 1949.

1944– DC-3’S JOIN THE TRAVELAIRS AND FORD TRIMOTORS AS SMOKEJUMPER AIRCRAFT. THE FIRST JUMPS IN REGION FIVE ARE MADE FROM CAVE JUNCTION. “PARADOCTORS” ARE TRAINED BY THE USFS FOR THE ARMY AND ARE USED ON RESCUE JUMPS.

1945– 300 MEN FROM THE ARMY’S 555TH BATTALION ARE TRAINED BY THE USFS SMOKEJUMPER PROGRAM AND UTILIZED ON FIRES.

1946– CPS ENDS. RETURNING SERVICE MEN PROVIDE MANY NEEDED RECRUITS. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PROVIDES FUNDS AND FIRES ARE JUMPED IN BOTH GLACIER AND YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARKS.

1947– MCCALL AND CAVE JUNCTION DEVELOP THEIR OWN TRAINING FACILITIES. FIRST MCCALL ROOKIE CLASS.

REGION – 3 BRINGS SMOKEJUMPERS TO DEMMING, NM FOR THE SPRING FIRE SEASON ON THE GILA NF. THIS LATER BECAME A SUB-BASE AT SILVER CITY, NM, STILL ACTIVE MOST SEASONS.

1948– A SUB-BASE IS ESTABLISHED AT IDAHO CITY AND HELICOPTERS ARE USED FOR RETRIEVAL.

1949– 12 JUMPERS ARE KILLED AT MANN GULCH.

1950– THE FS-2 PARACHUTE, SAME AS THE FS-1, 1.6 TWILL NYLON CANOPY EXCEPT 3 REAR PANELS MODIFIED WITH TAILS IS PLACED IN SERVICE.

1951– A SUB-BASE IS ESTABLISHED AT WEST YELLOWSTONE FUNDED BY THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE.

1954– THE FS-5, A 32’ FLAT CIRCULAR CANOPY, 1.1 RIPSTOP NYLON, WITH 7’ SLOTS AND THREE TAILS, ORANGE WITH 5 WHITE REAR PANELS, IS PLACED IN SERVICE. A MOVE FROM DRIFT CHUTES TO PAPER DRIFT STREAMERS STARTED.

1957– SMOKEJUMPER BASE IS ESTABLISHED AT REDDING, CALIFORNIA.

1959– THE BLM ESTABLISHES THEIR FIRST SMOKEJUMPER BASE IN FAIRBANKS, ALASKA.

1960– FS-5A PARACHUTE IN USE. MODIFIED FS-5 WITH LENGTHENED SLOTS TO 10’ AND GUIDELINES ATTACHED INSIDE THE CANOPY 35’’ FROM SKIRT. TOGGLES ADDED TO GUIDELINES IN 1968.

1964– SMOKEJUMPER BASES AT BOISE, ID AND REDMOND, OR. ARE ESTABLISHED BY THE USFS.

1965– WEST YELLOWSTONE BECOMES AN INTERAGENCY BASE AND USFS REGION-1 TAKES OVER MANAGEMENT.

1968– FS-10 PARACHUTE IN SERVICE FOR FIELD TESTING. 35’ PARABOLIC 1.1 RIPSTOP NYLON CANOPY WITH SEVEN PANEL SEPARATION ELLIPTICAL TU APERTURE. MILITARY 68K147-2 CANOPY AND D BAG. THE COLOR TO ORANGE WITH 11 WHITE REAR PANELS IN 1972.

1970– IDAHO CITY COMBINES WITH BOISE.

1971– CAVE JUNCTION SETS UP A SUB-BASE IN R-8 AT TRI-CITY, TENNESSEE. THIS ONLY OPERATES A FEW YEARS.

1972– AGE 40 LIMITATION ON PARACHUTE JUMPING RESCINDED.

1974– LA GRANDE, OR. ESTABLISHES A SMOKEJUMPER BASE.

1976-1977– SOVIET/AMERICAN SMOKEJUMPER EXCHANGE PROGRAM WITH PRACTICE JUMPS AT NCSB.

1978– RAM-AIR SMOKEJUMPER PARACHUTE DEVELOPMENT BEGINS BY BLM AT FAIRBANKS, AK.

1980– BOISE SMOKEJUMPER UNIT MOVED TO MCCALL.

1981– IN MCCALL, DEANNE SHULMAN BECOMES THE FIRST FEMALE JUMPER.

1982– FS-12 PARACHUTE IS PUT INTO SERVICE BY THE USFS.

1983– LA GRANDE IS CLOSED.

1988– NEW FACILITY FOR THE MCCALL BASE OPENS.

1991– MCCALL GETS FIRST TURBINE DC-3. FIRST FIRE JUMP WITH NEW TURBINES IS THE BEAR CREEK FIRE ON THE PAYETTE.

1994– SOUTH CANYON FIRE IN COLORADO CLAIMS THE LIVES OF 14 FIREFIGHTERS INCLUDING 3 SMOKEJUMPERS: DON MACKEY(MS0), ROGER ROTH (MYL), AND JIM THRASH (MYL).

1995– THE FS-14 PARACHUTE, AVAILABLE IN 3 SIZES, IS PUT INTO SERVICE BY THE USFS.

1997– MCCALL SENDS DAN FELT AND HECTOR MADRID TO RUSSIA FOR SMOKEJUMPER EXCHANGE.

1998– MCCALL TRAINS AND USES TWO RUSSIAN SMOKEJUMPERS DURING THE FIRE SEASON AS PART OF AN INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM.

1999– FRED PAVLOVIC AND STEVE DAIGH EXCHANGE FIRE SEASONS WITH TWO RUSSIAN JUMPERS.