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Tribute to those we lost
Smoke jumpers have one of the most dangerous jobs a man can perform. Not only are they fighting the fires that rage across our lands, they are jumping from planes into these infernos in an effort to get ahead of and slow the ravaging flames, not knowing if they will make it out alive.
In light of the recent tragedy where 19 smoke jumpers/Hot Shots lost their lives in the Arizona wildfire, I’d like to dedicate this blog posting to those brave souls who gave their lives to save others. They will forever be in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your service.
From “Chasing Fire” by Elle James
A daring smoke jumper braves a forest inferno while
fighting for the woman who makes him burn.
Chance Muldoon checked his gear one more time as he stood beside the plane’s open door, wind blasting his face, the acrid scent of smoke already burning his nostrils. Ahead of them, in the distance, red flames shot high as fire lit the evening sky to the west. Towering stands of Ponderosa pines, already ravaged by ravenous pine beetles, lit up like torches. A hot summer wind charged across the mountains like a freight train, fanning the flames, sending flames higher, climbing the hills, consuming all which lay before it at a breathtaking pace.
Adrenaline shot through Chance’s veins as he prepared to jump in front of the fast-moving line of fiery death. This was his world, his job, his life as a smoke jumper.
“Ready?” The most experienced spotter, also their strike team leader, called out.
Six other men, all wearing similar jumpsuits, harnessed into parachutes and lined up behind Chance, who nodded, prepared to jump on command.
The chief pointed at a break between the trees, where what looked like a slim thread of silver shone up through the gathering smoke. “Anchor point is between that stream and the rock escarpment,” he shouted over the roar of the engines. “We’ll create our own fireline and then backburn to consume the fuel ahead of the storm.”
Chance gave him another nod, patted his chute, and checked the big harness on the paracargo box full of the tools and equipment they would need for the fight. The jumper’s job was to jump ahead of the fire and create a break in the fire’s path to rob it of the fuel it needed to continue its march across thousands of acres of forest. An entire community of more than a hundred homes stood in the path of the raging inferno. If they didn’t stop it first, the homes would be nothing more than tinder, burnt to a crisp, when the beast was done with them. Any livestock or unfortunate animals left behind would be killed, either burned to death or succumbing to smoke inhalation.
The strike team leader shouted. “Go!”
A team of paracargo handlers shoved the box out the door. The static line jerked and the paracargo chute opened, lifting it up and away from the aircraft.
When the spotter called out “Go!” again, Chance didn’t think, didn’t hesitate. As the first man standing at the door, he jumped. As soon as he cleared the fuselage, the static line triggered the release of his parachute and it unfurled, jerking him upward.
The plane flew on, dropping its load of jumpers two at a time, chutes bursting open like popcorn in the sky.
Elle James spent twenty years in South Central Texas, ranching horses, cattle, goats, ostriches and emus. A former IT professional, retired Army and Air Force Reservist, she’s proud to be writing full-time, penning intrigues and paranormal adventures that keep her readers on the edge of their seats or laughing out loud. Now, living in northwest Arkansas, she’s given up wrangling cattle and exotic birds to wrangle her muses, a malti-poo and a yorkie. When she’s not at her computer, she’s traveling, out snow skiing, boating, or riding her four-wheeler, dreaming up new stories.
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