Serious injury sidelines Redmond Smokejumper

Ben Elkind family
Ben Elkind’s family. Photo via Redmond Smokejumpers Welfare Organization.

This article was first published on Fire Aviation.

A smokejumper was seriously injured Sunday May 15 during a training parachute jump. Ben Elkind sustained a dislocated hip and pelvic fracture during a hard landing. During surgery at the hospital they found six fractures and placed three plates and 10 screws to repair the damage.

Ben has been a Smokejumper for the US Forest Service based in Redmond, OR for nine years and worked in fire as a member of the Zig-Zag Hotshots before jumping. He rookied as a smokejumper in Redding, CA, in 2014 then transferred to Redmond in 2015 to be closer to home and his family.

If his name seems familiar it is because on Wildfire Today we reprinted an opinion article he wrote that was published in The Oregonian, titled, “A USFS firefighter in Oregon can be paid more at McDonald’s.” Ben was also a member of a group that traveled to Washington, D.C. in March where they met with White House officials about pay issues and passing the  Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act (H.R. 5631). They also talked with Marty Walsh, the Secretary of Labor, who oversees the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs (OWCP), an agency that has been criticized for slow-walking or failing to appropriately process the claims and pay the medical bills of firefighters injured on the job.

In an ironic twist, a GoFundMe page has been set up for Ben’s family by the Redmond Smokejumpers Welfare Organization, an often necessary step taken by many federal firefighters who are injured on the job. Here is an excerpt from their description on GoFundMe:

Ben has a long road to recovery and will be unable to work for a significant length of time and will be missing out on the overtime that so many wildland firefighters depend on to make a living. We are starting this GoFundMe in order to help Ben and his family through this tough time. Please consider donating to help a firefighter and his family while they support each other on the road to recovery.

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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.

10 thoughts on “Serious injury sidelines Redmond Smokejumper”

  1. Please consider donating to Ben and his family. Ben is an outstanding human, firefighter, and firefighter advocate. All of us federal fire folks owe him a huge debt of gratitude for the immense amount of time and energy he has put in working towards reclassification, fair pay, and benefits. He has a long recovery road ahead of him and now is our opportunity to give something back.

  2. Donated and shared. Very sad to see this, Ben is a textbook example of what sort of change motivated firefighters can make from the ground up.

    1. Wildland firefighter to Wildland firefighter I hope you have a good recovery from a first season Wildland firefighter to a 9 year vet Wildland firefighter

  3. Donated and shared. I have read many of his comments and as a GS6 forestry Tech with 2 kids I felt reciprocal on his opinion and story. We’re all hurting but I know he needs help.

  4. Ben is an excellent dude and a shining example of the kind of leaders and advocates we need more of in the Fire community. I strongly recommend doing what you can to support him and his family during this difficult time. Hang in there dude!

    And, while we’re at it, let’s pay firefighters a thriving wage with a commensurate benefits package so they can support a family even if they’re injured on the job. I know the community will rally and give Ben the support he needs, but there are others out there every year who get missed and who struggle alone. The solution is not just to donate. It’s to get angry and demand change from our government that demonstrates that the American people and leaders value the impact and sacrifices of men and women like Ben.

  5. It is time to either sideline the square or shut down the SMJ program.

    1. That’s a stupid statement. BLM has been safely jumping squares since the late 70’s. They’re safety record is pretty freakin’ good. Forest service has some kinks to iron out but. 95% of the guys I know that switched from rounds to squares are happy they did so. But this post is about Ben, here’s to a full recovery.

  6. Really sad to hear of Ben’s injury. Best wishes to him and his family for a successful recovery. And, yes, let’s all get in there with the Go-Fund-Me deal. I jumped both the round and square for years. And, although the square has some problems with stalling close to the ground if the jumper stays in deep brakes too long, I can say without reservation that when I came south from Alaska to jump fires in the Lower 48, I was really glad to have a square on my back. If I was to jump ten straight seasons down here and had to chose between doing it with a round or square, I’d take a square. I’ve crashed really hard on both, been knocked out on both. The square doesn’t solve all the problems with landing safely in the woods but it does help hitting the spot much more easy.

  7. I’m sorry to hear this and wish Ben a full and complete recovery. What bothers me is that as a first responder in the federal government he is not fully covered for his loss of income doing a needed and dangerous job.

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