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The Birth of Smokejumping - Notes Of The First Forestry Parachutist - Part 2

by Giorgy Alexandrovich Makeev (Leningrad 1949) |

In Part One (April 2009) Makeev told of his efforts to develop a smokejumper program in the Soviet Union in 1934 and to convince the Head of Forest Protection that it could be done safely and effectively. The project was approved for further experimentation in 1935. In spite of negative reports from his superiors, Makeev was given approval to further develop the smokejumper program in 1936. Thanks to Bruce Ford (MSO-75) and Tony Pastro (FBX-77) for their translation of this historic document.

1936 - First Year Of Operational Fire Jumps

In January 1936, a coworker from the aviation branch called me aside and asked how I would feel about going to work for the forest aviation branch. I agreed and was transferred. This caused great discord at home. My wife was thoroughly convinced that I would end up killing myself jumping. All my reassurances had no effect on her. In addition, she was certain that further work in adopting parachuting to forestry work would encounter unforeseeable difficulties. The future of this work appeared dim, indeed.

After transferring to the aviation branch, I was assigned as a sport parachute instructor, in addition to my duties as a senior researcher at the institute. This job description did not entirely correspond with my assigned duties of organizing active measures for aerial fire suppression, so the title was changed to "Parachute Affairs." For me this was another large blow to my pride, but there was no going back.

That year the branch received a large appropriation for aircraft purchase. They began to hire pilots and mechanics and to form the first aviation detachments. People were dispersed to various locations to organize the detachments and begin work.

Design and Develop the Necessary Equipment

Work had to start with equipping the jumpers. If one was to undertake such a complex operation as dropping jumpers to fires, then they should not be fighting fire with their bare hands, but be outfitted with the most effective tools. They gave me the job of developing these tools.

But before ordering special apparatus for suppressing fires with jumpers, it must first be designed. There was no information to be gotten from the literature, as these methods had not been used anywhere, either at home or abroad. But, having been a forestry engineer and field worker myself and having worked many years in the forest, I could well conceive what would be most needed to equip smokejumpers.

It was necessary to have the most portable and effective firefighting equipment. This did not yet exist. Therefore, I considered the most essential equipment to be a backpack pump and containers for transporting and parachuting liquid fire retardants to forest fires. I set about to design the first series of these. Then the most convenient gear, hand tools, portable communication devices, etc. must be thought out.

Design and preparation of special apparatus for aerial firefighting was especially complex. The forest aviation branch had no design bureau or workshops. It was necessary to manufacture an apparatus's component parts at various factories and to coordinate the work between them. The whole spring was occupied with this stressful work. Talks were also going on concerning forest aviation's purchase of its own personnel training parachutes. Of course, there were no end of delights for me. The work was in full swing.

Establishing a Training Facility

One of the forest aviation bases was located near where the Gorky aviation retardant project had been conducted the previous year. At this base I prepared to conduct the first trials of firefighting with parachutists. Here I sent all the parachute and firefighting equipment. I was allowed to enlist the young forestry worker I. Z. Levin, whom A. V. Yarov and I had trained in jumping the previous year. From this time on, I had a true helper. Levin energetically handled everything. He commandeered a place for packing parachutes, built packing tables, and organized the group of jumpers I intended to use for fighting fires. He received all the incoming equipment.

"Giorgy Alexandrovich," Levin told me, "you can't imagine how happy I was when I got those parachutes. I hide out here in the loft with them and sit by the hour and fuss with and look at them. I love them so much."

We understood each other wordlessly and had but one thought: Get our group of jumpers trained as quickly as possible and get about the task of putting out forest fires.

I soon threw myself into work. I got acquainted with the jumper trainees, established a special place at the airfield for storing fire retardant, and arranged the premises along the lines of a city firefighting company. Personnel parachutes lay in special cabinets with jumpsuits, axes, hoes, shovels, and helmets hung on racks. Numbers were attached to the parachutes. Cargo chutes and retardant blivets lay on shelves along with my special pride and joy, the backpack pumps I designed. Practical experience revealed an array of slight defects in their construction, but in general the backpack pumps gave good results and turned out to be the really indispensable tool that smokejumpers could not do without.

Surveying all this jumping and firefighting equipment, I saw the seed of a powerful aerial detachment that in time would have heavy aircraft and its own special smokejumper teams with hi-tech equipment. In my conception, smokejumper crews should be the basis of an aerial fire unit transported by aircraft for fire detection and forest patrol. It did not matter if all of this had never been done before. All our future work must demonstrate the necessity of further developing the smokejumper service. If only we had the chance to work, if only there were no disaster.

In the meantime, the backpack pumps with their shiny, nickel-plated wands lay on the shelves. The cargo chutes with their variously attached loads were impressive. The whole inventory of parachute and firefighting equipment looked so solid and well disposed that not only Levin and I, but also the ground-based forestry workers, came to look and admire.

Only here with socialism, I thought, could the use of parachutists for forestry goals be so quickly developed. This could not happen in any of the capitalist countries with their privately owned forests. There, forest specialists would never be given so many opportunities for conducting such experiments.

The First Fire Jumps

Having done several training jumps with Levin, I reported to the detachment commander that we were both ready for the fulfillment of any fire assignment. We did not have to wait long.

On June 19, 1936, I learned there was a large fire burning near the village of Telki, and that they had requested immediate help. I ran to the base director's apartment, received the order to jump, then ran to Levin's apartment and notified him to get ready for jumping.

Upon arriving at the airfield, we received another communication that assistance was needed on a second fire that was burning near the village of Osinki. Osinki was located in the same direction as Telki, but beyond it.

I received an order for me to jump at Telki and for Levin to jump at Osinki. We took off within 10 minutes with pilot Kondratenko. He was an experienced jumper himself and knew how to spot jumpers very accurately. He flew so confidently and well that I always felt very much at ease sitting behind him.

After a 25-30 minute flight, we saw smoke from the fire rising above the forest. As we approached, I thought I could see a village near the forest edge, among open fields. Kondratenko throttled back, and the plane began descending closer to the fire. After we observed it at low altitude, he gunned the engine and gained altitude as he approached the settlement. There were plenty of open areas nearby, so it was not necessary to pick a jump spot. Kondratenko leaned forward, intently surveyed one of the plowed fields, and indicated with a nod of the head that this was the spot he chose to drop me. I jumped. Landing softly on the loose soil, I caught a glance of the plane circling, after which it straightened out and flew on to drop Levin.

Before I had managed to gather up my chute, I spied a motley crowd of peasants running from the village and climbing over fences. Coming into the village with the rough peasants, I learned that one of the local foresters had already taken some locals to fight the fire. One of the hospitable Telki residents would not let me go before drinking a cup of tea, after which I set off for the fire with 16 people. It was 13 kilometers by forest road. The workers knew the area well, and we got there within two hours. The forester and a group of workers were already working. The fire had been nearly stopped with an encircling trench. The forester took me to inspect the fireline. I love to meet the local foresters. Many times I have been struck by their experience and knowledge of the forest, how they are acquainted with every little path in their domains and where each stand is located. They loved the forest and served as fearless protectors against fire and poaching. This forester, too, turned out to be very experienced and, with a small group of workers, had succeeded in quickly stopping the fire at its most dangerous spots.

Having relieved the tired workers, extinguished the remaining hotspots, and feeling assured that the fire was left in the trusted hands of an experienced forester, I returned in the evening to Telki and arrived back at the base that night.

That same night Levin arrived from Osinki, having successfully put out his fire with the aid of a forester and workers. The forest guards had been the first to arrive at these fires. The smokejumpers would only demonstrate their indispensability when they were the first to get to a fire before the arrival of forest guards, and if not able to put the fire out, at least halt its spread.

Successful Timber Jumps Possible

In the ensuing days, there were no new fires, and Levin and I conducted training jumps directly into the timber. For training in timber jumping, we first located a nearby stand of young deciduous trees. The base director went with me in the "Emochka" (German-made sedan), to more closely inspect the stands from the ground. The reprod turned out to be very thick.

Levin and I took off for the jump. The weather was excellent, with almost no wind. The pilot circled long over the forest, turning first right, then left, until he finally saw the people on the ground. I jumped first. When the parachute opened, I again felt the special pleasure of finding myself completely alone in the total silence of the immense expanse of sky, no longer hearing the roar of the engine, and seeing beneath my feet the green carpet of the beckoning, welcoming forest.

I slowly drifted downwind and descended toward the reprod stand we had selected earlier. I could now clearly discern the individual groups of green tree crowns. I began to estimate where I would land. After a few seconds, the bushy crown of a rather large birch flew under my feet, and with legs tight together, I lightly hit the trunk near the top of a small birch, swung away from it, and lightly hit my back on another trunk. At that moment, I felt my descent stop with no more than a half-meter remaining to the ground.

It was marvelous in the forest. Quickly undoing the snaps, I squirmed out of the harness to the ground and ran to look for the nearest opening to signal the plane that I had landed successfully. But there were no clearings close by, and through the gaps in the leaves, I noticed Levin's parachute descending. I then returned to my chute, took an axe from the pouch on my belt, and quickly freed the canopy and lines from the top of the birch. Then I ran to see if Levin needed help.

Levin's landing was less successful. He landed in a large spruce whose branches had snagged his chute. After climbing down a neighboring birch, he caught sight of some passing loggers with a saw and asked them to fall several trees to free his parachute.

After some time Levin and I, with our parachutes on our backs, came out to the road and got in the "Emochka." At the airfield, we proudly showed our assembled comrades our hands and said, "Not even a scratch, not even one hole in a parachute. Everything is completely fine."

Levin had some scratches and a bruised hand, but bravely hid this. Concerning the parachute, he said, subsequently, "It got a little puncture hole." This little puncture turned out to be a huge hole. That was how the first timber jump went. Later we repeated it.

The weather continued mild from a fire standpoint, and we intensified training our group of smokejumpers and did jumps to pick new jump spots and to accomplish other goals.

Wider development of smokejumper work was hindered, in that younger jumpers could not be utilized. They had only one or two jumps and were not yet permitted to jump with just any pilot. They had to be given three to four additional training jumps with a Class-1 parachute instructor. There was no such instructor in the detachment. Repeated efforts with the Gorky air club over the detailing of a Class-1 instructor had been fruitless. The group members had long since completed their ground schooling, and the arrival of an instructor promised by the air club had been constantly delayed.

More Jumpers Needed

The prevailing damp weather gradually began to change: the rains stopped, the skies cleared, and the pilot-observers started finding fires. Training the group must be speeded up. Levin and I constantly went to Gorky, receiving promises of an instructor's arrival. The jumper group gathered nearly every day at the airfield, insistently asking to be allowed to train, to no avail.

Fires began to pop up more and more often, and it was necessary to quickly expand smokejumper capability.

After a short meeting at the base, it was decided not to wait for a Class-1 instructor and to conduct training jumps for the group with our own means. Jumping began on the fifth of July. Levin was given the task of performing the first demonstration jump. I was to do a spotter's check and together with the pilot, muster out the trainees. Levin jumped like a good soldier. Then we took off. Gaining altitude, the pilot circled over the airfield and straightened out on the jump run. The engine cut back, the noise quieted, and the pilot raised his hand. Zoya boldly began to climb out of the cabin. She walked out on the wing and turned to face the fuselage. I watched how she held the ripcord handle, how she stood. It was all correct. I smiled encouragingly. The pilot gave the command: "Get ready!" Zoya replied, "All ready," and carefully pulled the bottom edge of the handle from its pocket. "Go!" ordered the pilot, and Zoya boldly jumped off the wing. The pilot throttled up, the engine revved, the plane did a sharp turn, and I saw Zoya's open chute.

An Accident Almost "Kills" The Program

On July 8th we resumed training the jumpers. I did the first jump. The base director noticed that the airplane was periodically obscured by clouds and that I, from the moment of exit, had not been visible. The clouds were indeed low, and further jumping was again put off. Jumper training was postponed until July 11.

That unfortunate day has stayed in my memory my whole life, and I can still recall the smallest details. That day was nearly the last for the young jumper Zoya Trukhina, and nearly shut down the use of smokejumpers, killing the results of all our efforts. In allowing some insignificant thoughtlessness and not observing minor details, an accident occurred. It happened because there are no minor details in aviation.

I arose early on July 11 and went to the parachute loft to prepare equipment. Levin and the other jumpers also began arriving early. Around noon all the parachutes had been checked and packed. The jumpers had suited up in new suits and were ready for jumping. At one o'clock, the vehicle came, and stopping by for the doctor, we headed to the airfield. We went, as always, singing. The doctor examined everyone and cleared all for jumping. The day was sunny and hot, with a light wind.

I would first do a demonstration jump from 400 meters, so the jumpers could better observe all the jumper procedures. After me would go Zoya Trukhina, doing her third jump, and the other jumpers would follow. Many people had gathered at the airfield, as it became known that the smokejumpers would be jumping that day.

The base director gave permission to start jumping. Gaining altitude, the pilot headed on the jump run. After opening, I could see the crowd of spectators assembled at the airfield, the parked airplanes, and the group of readied jumpers. Beneath my feet I could see the fence bordering the airfield. The wind carried me over the fence, and I landed safely not far from the spectators. I had still not gotten my chute gathered up when a small vehicle came up. A soldier helped me stow the chute, and we sat in the vehicle and headed for the ramp.

By now the plane with Zoya Trukhina was climbing into the air. A boastful pilot, whom I rather disliked, was flying. Levin was sitting in the back seat.

Laying my chute on the packing panels, I spotter-checked the next jumper and began to watch the plane's flight. It did slow, wide circles, climbing to 700 meters. Finally it straightened out on the jump run. But apparently the pilot changed his mind, as he did still another wide circle and again straightened out into the wind. Everyone on the ground now gazed fixedly at the plane to better see the moment the jumper would climb on the wing and exit.

The plane passed over the center of the airfield and began to gradually move off into the blue sky. Now the plane should slow and Zoya appear on the wing. Eyes strained to the point of tears, trying to catch the slightest movement on the tiny, distant outline of the airplane.

She Disappeared Behind the Tree Line

But why didn't he throttle back? Here should be the exit point, and the plane kept flying farther and farther. Surely he didn't want to go around again? Now it was clear that the plane had gone well beyond the exit point. Suddenly, the plane's speed diminished, and the tiny dot of the jumper appeared on the wing. In another moment she had exited the plane and fallen away. A patch of white material appeared above the falling figure. But it didn't lengthen as usual into a white ribbon. It was visible how the pilot chute stubbornly resisted, how it valiantly strove to pull out the main canopy, jerking right and left. The distance between the jumper and the earth rapidly closed. Already less than half remained. At that height, a white tongue of the main canopy suddenly and noticeably stretched out longer, and the pilot chute began to flap even stronger, but the parachute opened no further, and the black figure of the jumper, having covered the whole distance to the earth, disappeared behind the tree line.

Everyone on the airfield, forgetting all else in the world, rushed across the summer field to where Zoya Trukhina had fallen. Some of the base workers, together with the doctor, jumped into a vehicle and tore off, overtaking the running people.

As I watched Zoya Trukhina's fall, I suffered the worst seconds of my life. When it was clear that Trukhina's parachute had not opened fully and that she had fallen that way into the forest, the certainty of her death aroused in me pangs of pity and, at the same time, a surge of heavy dread that the adoption of smokejumping was irrevocably finished.

The thought quickly flitted through my mind that I myself had extremely carefully packed Trukhina's parachute. Why hadn't it opened and why hadn't she used the reserve?

With these thoughts I ran, passing the others, toward the place of the accident. Not far from it, on the road, stood several workers from the base, including some who had gone in the auto. They barred the way of the running crowd. From here a group of people by the auto were visible on the right of the road, and to the left in the field was the white canopy of the open parachute. I ran to the parachute. Two of the detachment's pilots stood by the parachute. Approaching the canopy, I noticed it was raised slightly in one spot, covering something lying beneath. It flashed through my mind that the canopy covered the broken body of Zoya Trukhina. I went to the edge of the canopy, lifted it, and looked beneath. Under the canopy was only a hummock of earth. Trukhina was not there.

"Where is Trukhina?" I asked.
"They already took her to the hospital in the auto," one of the pilots answered.
"Is she alive?"
"Yes, but badly banged up."
"Was she conscious?"
"Yes, fully conscious. She was talking."
"Well, why are we standing here?" said one of the pilots. "We need to gather up the parachute and go."

I gathered the chute and we went to the airfield. Leaving the parachute there, I went to the hospital. There were many people there. Elbowing my way into the room where Trukhina lay, I went up to her bed.

"Giorgy Alexandrovich, why didn't my parachute open?" Zoya asked immediately on seeing me.

"But why didn't you open the reserve, when you saw that the main wasn't opening?"

"I was afraid it would tangle with the main."

Then the doctor came and said the patient should be left alone and everyone left the room. In the hall, I saw an old woman crying - this was Zoya's mother.

The doctor, seeing me in the foyer, said, "I just injected her with morphine to ease the pain. I didn't find any specific damage. No doubt nervous shock plays a part. You can rest assured everything necessary will be done for her. There is no need to call in any specialists."

"I always consider," he added, "that such incidents in aviation, and especially in parachuting, are the rule. There will always be a certain percentage of accidents."

"No, doctor, with proper procedures, there shouldn't be a single accident in parachuting," I replied and headed home.

At home the morning had gone as follows: My wife, as usual, busied herself about the house in the morning. She knew there would be jumper training that day, knew that I would be jumping, and was in a worried state. She often went out on the porch upon hearing the noise of an airplane and looked up into the blue sky, since parachute jumps were usually visible from the porch. About 3 o'clock she suddenly noticed people running along the street toward the airfield and, from snatches of conversation, heard that a jumper had been hurt. She dropped everything and rushed toward the airfield, which was about a kilometer and a half away. Almost there, she caught a glance of the base vehicle headed toward the hospital. She ran after it and only at the doors of the hospital was she told that Giorgy Alexandrovich was okay and that Trukhina was hurt.

At the airfield in the evening there was discussion of the accident and compilation of facts in the case.

"Did you notice it seemed as if the canopy was deliberately tied somehow so as not to open?" the base engineer asked me.

Early in the morning I headed to the hospital to check on Trukhina's condition. She was feeling chipper and said, "Next time, Giorgy Alexandrovich, please just spot me yourself, since that pilot and Levin weren't taking things seriously during the flight. They kept laughing at me, and that had a bad effect on me. And do you know why I think the parachute didn't open? I didn't exit the plane right. Right at the exit, the plane's wing banked suddenly and I didn't really jump, but rolled and spun off. My arms were all entangled in the lines, but I did manage to get hold of the reserve handle and was afraid to pull it, thinking it would entangle the main lines even more. I fell like that all the way and, about 20 meters from the ground, the main opened completely. I saw that clearly, and that's how I survived."

Now the whole picture of the accident became more understandable. Only, how did the bank happen? I hadn't noticed that. Had it just seemed that way to her? Perhaps she got dizzy?

What a Bad Deal!

When I got home, Levin arrived.

"Boy, Giorgy Alexandrovich, what a bad deal. We really tripped up on a flat spot. And the jumpers are bad-mouthing Trukhina. They say, because of her now, they won't get to jump."

"How could it have happened? Trukhina and I packed the parachute. After packing, it was there under our eyes the whole time. Where could that entangled line have come from?"

"It could have broken and whipped into the air. When I watched the jump, it seemed to me that the main didn't open because it was held together with something."

"I didn't see that," I answered.

Late in the evening I asked again at the hospital after Zoya Trukhina's condition and hearing that she was feeling satisfactory, returned home. Heavy thoughts wandered through my head. The base commanders undertook parachute work under pressure from me, and in general rather feared and disliked it themselves. I had insisted on and forced this rookie training. And now, the result of all this, an accident. Who was now to blame for all this, if not me? But it seemed to me the greatest misfortune was that parachute operations would be forbidden and never adapted to forestry work at all. Almost the whole night I didn't sleep, and lay with an empty mind and open eyes.

Why hadn't the parachute opened? Indeed, I had packed it so carefully, seemingly following closely the smallest attention to detail. What would happen now? Surely they wouldn't halt the work that had so successfully begun. All night these questions tormented me. I found no answers to them.

The Investigation

In the accident investigation, all the reasons for it floated to the surface. It was established that Trukhina had been out late with her fiance the night before the jump, and may have been fatigued the morning of the jump. The flippant behavior of the pilot and Levin during the flight certainly played a part. And the main reason was that at the moment of the jump, the pilot had yawed left, supposedly so the plane's tail would swing right and not snag the parachute. The pilot testified to this. Levin also supported this maneuver at the moment of the jump.

In interrogating Levin, they put to him the question: Did Makeev pack the parachute well, in his opinion?

"No," he answered, "in my opinion, not well."

They listened to him attentively. He continued authoritatively, "You really shouldn't pack so neatly and carefully as he does. He literally watches every little fold and edge, and such neatness is really not necessary."

Toward autumn, Zoya was given a vacation in the south, and soon after her return from the sanatorium, she got married. The next summer, she kept asking the detachment to take her on as a jumper.

Further Jumping Prohibited

Shortly after the accident, a telegram arrived from the Forest Aviation Trust, prohibiting the continuation of jumping.

At the beginning of August an order came for me to fly immediately to Moscow. To my surprise, in Moscow they asked the head of the Trust to use retardant drops to actively fight going forest fires.

"Zolotov must have really been making up stories about his tank if they're getting ready to use it to fight such large fires," I thought. With all sincerity I testified to the complete futility of such work.

Taking advantage of my presence in Moscow, I began to work for immediate approval of protocols for fighting forest fires with smokejumpers.

Consideration of the protocols was slated for a special meeting. I presented it paragraph by paragraph, and a very prominent Master of Parachuting Sport set forth his opinion. As for myself, I felt like this was something of a defense dissertation, since the use of smokejumpers for forest firefighting was my own personal idea, and I had written every word of the protocols with my own hand.

Smokejumping Approved to Continue

The protocols were approved. Now the smokejumper service had passed an exam and received authorization to ply the boundless forest reserves of the USSR. At the same time not a day went by at the Head of Forest Protection that the need was strongly felt for the use of aviation to actively fight fires. Urgent telegrams flew from all corners of the Union requesting the dispatch of airplanes for fighting forest fires.

In 1936 forest fires were very widespread, inflicted great damage, and help could only be rendered by means of swift aviation. After approval of the general inspection protocols, it was again decided to conduct operational fire jumps.

I returned from Moscow to the airbase at the end of August. Now I was cleared to fly with a patrol plane and at the first opportunity jump to towns for quick mobilization to fight forest fires. Levin was unable to participate in the work, as he had been intermittently ill.

It was August 31 with a chill in the air. The base director had insisted that I wear a sheepskin coat for the flight. With the coat and parachute gear, it was cramped in the cabin of the plane. I had to sit hunched in a most uncomfortable position. Once seated, it was impossible to shift my legs, and during a long flight my legs would go numb.

After a two-hour flight we sighted a fire near a village. Descending lower, we saw people working near the fire and that it was surrounded by a fireline. The plane again climbed to altitude and continued on the patrol.

"How can I jump now?" I thought, tensing and trying to feel first one, then the other cold-stiffened leg. The pilot-observer, seated in the aft cabin, suddenly tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a distant, barely visible smoke. His sharp eyes had picked it out first.

The plane changed course and headed straight for the smoke. It was about a 10-minute flight. The fire turned out to be burning in a pine timber lot not far from a little stream. Near the fire was a cutover area with a lot of slash. There were no people visible. We flew toward the nearest village. The pilot-observer, leaning forward, shouted directly in my ear, "Are you going to jump?"

It was now or never and I nodded affirmatively. The nearest village was 7-8 kilometers from the fire. Next to the village was a cutover area with protruding stumps. A little further a green meadow was visible. I pointed it out to the pilot.

In the sheepskin coat it was difficult to climb out of the cabin, and movement was very constrained. The pilot didn't throttle back enough, and the windblast was very strong. In addition, I had to stand a long time - one foot on the wing, the other on the step. Exiting the plane, I felt a jerk and hung sitting in the harness, but looking up at the canopy, I saw it was all tangled and that several lines ran across it in various directions.

"Oh, my God!" I cried, pulling the reserve handle. The reserve opened in an instant. Gradually, the main lines began to slide off the canopy, and it also opened fully.

I landed right near the edge of the meadow next to an enormous spruce. The peasants knew about the fire, as they had seen the smoke not long before this. No forest guard lived in the village. The nearest forester lived 12 kilometers from here and still didn't know about the fire. I told the peasants that I needed 5-6 workers to go with me to put out the fire.

"If you pay for the work in cash, we'll find some people."

"How much per day?"

"How about 4 rubles?"

They agreed on this pay, and four men said they had to go grab a meal, as they would have to spend the night in the forest. "We don't need any more people, as we hope to handle it," they said. It was quickly getting toward evening. We headed into the forest barely an hour before sunset. As always with local people in the forest, it was an absolute pleasure. They always go along the dry places with well-trod paths winding about and skirting all the bogs, passing over streams and rivers on planks. Walking by such paths it is easy for a new person to get disoriented, but the local residents never get lost. Finally we came to a little bridge over a stream.

"This is the stream near which you saw the fire from the plane. It should be around here somewhere, since there aren't any other streams," one of the old peasants said.

We sat to rest and had a smoke. It was quiet in the forest; not a twig on the trees was stirring. The twilight quickly deepened. On the advice of the workers we soon set out down the trail in order to arrive before dark. We went along the same little forest road. Occasionally we would smell smoke, and then it would disappear. Then we returned to the bridge and followed another trail. There was no more smell of smoke. We went back and forth, but could not find the fire. Night fell and it was very dark, so we discussed how to proceed. One old peasant listened keenly and proposed that we split into two groups, one going to the left from the bridge, the other to the right. I went with two workers to the left. We had to force our way through dense thickets of reprod. Soon a shout rang out from the forward worker. We headed toward the shout and saw the bright flames of the fire through the darkness. The fire was not large in area, but very bright from burning downfall and clumps of brushwood.

I must be fair and say that I learned a great deal from these experienced forest dwellers. Arriving at the fire, they first had a smoke and began to weigh where best to build a fireline - how far from the fire and on which side. I submitted completely to their experienced direction and worked with a shovel side by side. Toward morning the entire fire was surrounded by a good fireline that the workers proceeded to widen. A fresh morning breeze began to blow and trees whose roots had burned out began to topple.

Leaving a reliable worker to patrol the fire, three workers and I returned to Kutyets, where we met the forester hurrying to the fire. I happily informed him that the fire was already contained. This was the first fire put out by smokejumpers before the arrival of forest guards!

From the first of September the rains began and fires ceased. Soon an order came to return to Leningrad. Going through Moscow, at the Head of Forest Protection I was given instructions to start training smokejumpers well in advance (of the fire season) for the following year.