Smokejumper: A Memoir By One Of America’s Most Select Airborne Firefighters
By Jason A. Ramos & Julian Smith
Considered the Special Operations Units of the firefighting world, smokejumpers are on the front lines of “the worst drought on record”. This perfectly timed first-hand account offers a dramatic lens through which to cover the crisis facing the American West.
I was sent this book by the publisher. I often do reviews of new books coming out and share my thoughts via product review.
Ramos begins with his life as a 17 year old volunteer firefighter and his progress to Forest Service helitack crew onto his dream of being a smokejumper. Ramos shares his memoirs of being a smokejumper in the Western United States. His stories give a first-hand account of what it is like to battle huge wildland fires, the unique nature of being a smokejumper, and how dangerous it can be. While most of the fire service is trained in wildland firefighting, most don’t experience what smokejumpers see on a regular basis. Ramos takes the time to share the history of smokejumping and correlates past history with current firefighting.
All types of firefighters will enjoy this book because Ramos includes the camaraderie of the job, excitement of fighting fires, and tragedy. Ramos shares his reflections on infamous fatal fires like the 1994 South Canyon Fire, 2001 Thirtymile Fire, and the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire.
If you are a firefighter, you will like the delivery of this book in relation to firefighting. Ramos and Smith put together a great biographical story and easily keep your attention with a well written book. You won’t put it down until you are done reading.
Pros: Well written, expertly delivered. You won’t want to put it down.
Cons: As with many wildland firefighting books, structural firefighters might not want to pick it up…even though they should!
I would recommend SmokeJumper to others, and I will give it a 5 out of 5 stars.
About the Authors
Jason A. Ramos:
Jason A. Ramos has devoted 26 years of his life to the fire service. His career began at the age of 17 as a volunteer with the Riverside County Fire Department, then progressed to wildland firefighting in Southern California. Now a smokejumper in his sixteenth season, he is based in Winthrop, WA, at the North Cascades Smokejumper Base, the “birthplace of smokejumping.”
Julian Smith received a Banff Mountain Book Award and a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Crossing the Heart of Africa and has written for Outside, Wired, Men’s Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Discover, Smithsonian, and the Washington Post. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
About the Book
A rare inside look at the thrilling world of smokejumpers, the airborne firefighters who parachute into the most remote and rugged areas of the United States, confronting the growing threat of nature’s blazes.
Forest and wildland fires are growing larger, more numerous, and deadlier every year — record drought conditions, decades of forestry mismanagement, and the increasing encroachment of residential housing into the wilderness have combined to create a powder keg that threatens millions of acres and thousands of lives every year. One select group of men and women are part of America’s front-line defense: smokejumpers. The smokejumper program operates through both the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Though they are tremendously skilled and only highly experienced and able wildland firefighters are accepted into the training program, being a smokejumper remains an art that can only be learned on the job. Forest fires often behave in unpredictable ways: spreading almost instantaneously, shooting downhill behind a stiff tailwind, or even flowing like a liquid. In this extraordinarily rare memoir by an active-duty jumper, Jason Ramos takes readers into his exhilarating and dangerous world, explores smokejumping’s remarkable history, and explains why their services are more essential than ever before.