Retired jumpers restore smokejumper base

Smokejumpers who used to work out of the Siskiyou Smokejumper Base south of Cave Junction, Oregon are returning this week to restore the parachute loft.

An excerpt from the Mail Tribune:

CAVE JUNCTION — Former smokejumpers whose lives once depended on parachutes inspected, repaired and packed at the former Siskiyou Smokejumper Base are returning to help restore the nation’s oldest smokejumper parachute loft.

The retired smokejumpers will be joined today by local volunteers in restoring the parachute loft at the former Siskiyou Smokejumper Base, according to Gary Buck, a retired smokejumper who made his first fire jump in 1966 from the base.

Located at the Illinois Valley Airport, half a dozen miles south of Cave Junction, the base was established in 1943.

The first smokejumper base was established in 1940 in Montana, a year after the first experimental jumps were made at Winthrop, Wash. Another base was built in McCall, Idaho, the same year as the Siskiyou base. The bases in Montana, Idaho and Washington were moved and the original buildings were destroyed, according to Buck.

The Siskiyou base is the last of the original smokejumper bases in American history still standing in its original location with its original buildings, he said.

The parachute loft, built in 1948, is the oldest of any smokejumper base in North America.

Buck is the president of the nonprofit Siskiyou Smokejumper Base Museum Project, a group whose mission is to establish a smokejumper museum at the base, which closed in 1981. Thanks to the group’s efforts, the base has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

About 20 former smokejumpers are expected to show up this week to help restore the old loft, said project secretary Roger Brandt. That includes Cave Junction residents Bob Nolan and Paul Block, two smokejumpers who helped build structures on the base in 1950, he said.

Thanks Kelly.