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Limey Smokejumper Book Review

by Mike Overby |

This is the newest book by a smokejumper, about smokejumping. Robert Hubble (MSO-91) is the author; he jumped from Missoula 1991-97 and in 2002.

Having been a smokejumper in Missoula much earlier in my career – during the late ’60s and early ’70s – I found this book to be an excellent portrayal of the job a lot of us described as “the best job we ever had.”

When I was jumping it was during college years – only to support college expenses – and I never went back after graduating and getting a “real job.” Today, most smokejumpers jump as a career/job – even though most are seasonal – working less than six months per year. Seasonal jumpers either live off their short seasonal income, or supplement with school teaching or other winter occupations.

This is a job that America should be thankful that these “very dedicated individuals” are out there who risk life and injury, but receive limited retirement and health-care benefits from performing.

The author does an outstanding job describing the intense preparation and training needed to perform the very physical and mental aspects of the job. As he described, and I paraphrase: the job training is much like airborne training in the military – but on steroids.

A jumper spends an enormous amount of time preparing for a short parachute jump into usually remote and rugged wilderness areas, but one that could cause him/her to land in a 200-foot Douglas fir or pine tree, the middle of a lake, or crashing down on hard rock or logs in a strong wind – but what a way to “get to the job!”

The author also describes, unfortunately, the many bureaucracies – the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management – that have crept into a very fine organization, like any big government agencies. If true, and I don’t doubt it a bit, decisions being made by non-jumper bureaucrats are causing great harm to the great camaraderie and teamwork that existed in the past.

I hope that has changed since Mr. Hubble left jumping in 2002. If not, maybe some of those bureaucrats need to read this book – to find out what it is really like performing the job.

Overall, Mr. Hubble is an excellent writer and I hope to read his other books – and future ones as well.