by The Associated Press
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- Smokejumpers have started training in preparation for Alaska's fire season.
The state had 527 wildfires last year, burning almost 3 million acres.
Helping to fight them are the smokejumpers -- federally funded firefighters who drop hundreds of feet to suppress wildland fires with minimal tools.
At practice near Fort Wainwright on Monday, three planeloads of smokejumpers parachuted onto an open patch of dead grass. It was the second practice for this year's second training group.
By smokejumpers' standards, the landing spot was easy to hit. There was a half a football field of space surrounded by leafless trees.
The men and women will face increasingly difficult landing spots as the training week proceeds.