MONTANAN HEROES: Veteran Firefighters Lend a Hand in Time of Peril

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The following excerpt was derived from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Service (located near Dillon, MT). We are thrilled to highlight our elderly “volunteers,” all of whom in their earlier years were Smokejumpers! It truly takes a “village” when it comes to firefighting.

 It is encouraging to see various helpers coming together to fight the raging beast.

“Today, a group of volunteers ranging in age from 75 to 86 years old, consisting of a retired criminal lawyer, general surgeon, three Vietnam Veterans, a 37-year District Ranger and Engineer, a South Carolina native who now is the owner of a small orchard in Kalispell, and a teacher finished up their work at the “Dinner Camp,” located up Birch Creek on the Dillon District. From the outset, the group seems unlikely, but as Rich Trinity relayed to me when I visited, they all have a shared experience that shaped who they became when they were young men. They all were Smokejumpers for the USFS. 

The National Smokejumper Association has a “Smokejumper Trail Crew,” and today, the crew out at Dinner Creek will depart, having conducted a week’s worth of work sanding picnic tables, trimming trees, widening roads, spreading gravel by hand, and renovating restrooms – all while camping on the project site.

“You know, we can’t help with the current fires. We can’t jump anymore. Heck, there’s a lot we can’t do anymore, but we can do this. We can do a lot more than people think. It feels good to get out here every year and contribute something. We aren’t done.”, relayed Rod McIver.

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Trinity pointed out that the support and direction they had received from the District was a huge factor in how much they were able to get done this past week and credited District Recreation Manager Gail Plovanic for that change (pictured below with volunteers).

Amid our current situation, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (near Dillon Mt) is facing challenges. We have a problematic fire season ahead of us. If you have doubts as to whether we are equipped to handle these challenges, we are. We have always had people amongst us with the grit, character, work ethic, and commitment you see in this Smokejumper Trails Crew. We have always had employees that represent a cross-section of America.”

[Editor’s Note: Photo Credit-Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Service]




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