Smokejumpers make history on Parker Peak fire in South Dakota

Parker Peak Fire, July 2, 2012
Parker Peak Fire, July 2, 2012
Parker Peak Fire, July 2, 2012. Photo by Bill Gabbert

Update at 10:08 a.m. MT, July 4, 2012:

It is apparent from some comments left on this article that we were misinformed by the Northern Rockies Type 2 Incident Management Team’s press release. While smokejumpers did jump on the Parker Peak fire on Monday, three of our readers said this did NOT make history.


(Original article, July 3, 2012)

Smokejumpers made history yesterday. For the first time ever, they jumped on a fire in South Dakota. I was taking photos in the general area and saw a jump plane overhead and heard him on the radio saying he was returning to Grand Junction, but I didn’t imagine that it had just kicked out a load of smokejumpers on the Parker Peak fire — a fire that you can easily drive to that already had several engines hard at work. I thought maybe a jump plane was substituting for an Aerial Supervision Module….or something. But, when firefighting resources are stretched thin, all help, even especially smokejumper help, is appreciated. (Just kidding folks!)

The Parker Peak fire is burning just a couple of miles east of the White Draw fire northeast of Edgemont, South Dakota, and south of the Highway 86/18 junction. This morning, Bob Fry’s Northern Rockies Type II IMT assumed command of the fire. It is 10% contained, has burned 800 acres and has 70 personal assigned, in addition to one Type 1 crew, one Type 2 crew, five engines, and one dozer. Five structures and two outbuildings are threatened by the fire.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

14 thoughts on “Smokejumpers make history on Parker Peak fire in South Dakota”

  1. All due respect to smoke jumpers, but I think the program has outlived its purpose when the fires that get jumped have more to do with “bagging” another state than getting to an inaccessible location. Sounds a lot like when they jumped a fire in North Dakota a few years ago and they had to be picked up and driven to the fire. Then they made a big deal about the first fire jumped in North Dakota. Seems to be a bit of an abuse of the system.

    1. Yeah jumpers in ND and SD sounds ridiculous. But for the ND incident my understanding is it was the fastest way to get a Type 3 organization on scene. I believe they had been prepositioned in Miles City MT.

    2. Jumpers don’t just order themselves up to go to a fire…there is an Interagency Dispatch System which decides how to use and allocate the available firefighting resources in an area. The fact that the jumpers may enjoy a little “fame” on occasion is more to do with how reporters react (e.g. Bill Gabbert’s story above) than what the jumpers do to actually promote themselves. Jumpers are a mature, experienced, professional and diversified group of firefighters that can adaptable to most any firefighting situation when called upon by the “System”.

    3. Cody- I agree with the other posters that you need to get your facts straight before posting comments. I was a Smokejumper on one of the two fires that were jumped in North Dakota that year and “Midwest” is right that jumpers were utilized to provide a type 3 incident management team to a remote area quickly. We were NOT driven to the fire (I walked 1/4 mile to it), and our rapid response and organization on the incident saved the ordering unit from ordering a T2 team. That savings probably paid for the entire Smokejumper program for a year. The mission of Smokejumpers has grown to include staffing type 3 incidents and managing fires for resource benefits.

      I also jumped a fire on the Black Hills National Forest southwest of Spearfish that was in Wyoming, but about a hundred yards from South Dakota. We care less about where we jump, and more about providing a professional and experienced cadre of fire leaders to our end users.

  2. Maybe they will send some Region 8 FireFighters everyone is sitting on ready to help our fellow brother and sisters!

  3. I love to give jumpers a hard time too, but please check your facts. If a stick of jumpers is the closest resource (say, compared to an Idaho IHC…) then where is there a problem. They can get there faster, provide quality on the ground firefighting resources, and you can be sure they will be pulled as soon as they are no longer needed.

  4. sorry to say this bill but i was on a fire in the black hills in, 2006ish that was jumped. i can get you the fire name and location if ya like. have to do some looking through my records.

    1. I also recall hearing about his. I wanna say a fire north of rapid city in 06? Don’t quote me.

      1. That sounds right… I watched a load of boosters out of the Miles City satellite base head to the Black Hills in 2006. Pretty sure they jumped at least one fire.

  5. In 2006, that stick jumped a fire on the BKF in Wyoming, north of Sundance. This was the first time we jumped a fire in South Dakota. I can guarantee you that nobody jumped a fire north of Rapid City. North of Rapid City is 300 miles of prairie.

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