Visit the Smokejumpers

Many guests of our Missoula Bed and Breakfast have found the Missoula Smokejumpers Visitor Center an interesting place to visit.

The idea of patrolling the skies to look for forest fires was first broached not long after the end of WWI, and the initial test flights took place in the spring of 1919. By 1925, air patrols over Montana, Idaho, and Eastern Washington were in place. Lieutenant Nick B. Mamer and R.T. Freng were the first two pilots for the patrol; they flew patrols in the Northern Rocky Region for a decade, from 1925-35.

Initially, the flights were used only for patrols and to photograph the region. It was not until 1929 that aircraft were used to drop supplies to firefighters on the ground; By 1935, it had become common practice for planes to drop supplies to firefighters, but it was widely deemed too dangerous for men to parachute to fires in order to fight them.

Indeed, there were many obstacles to overcome before smokejumping could be tried. Simply finding the appropriate equipment required a Herculean effort – the jumpers needed to land safely in all sorts of conditions before fighting the fires. At last, the first fire jumps were made by Rufus Robinson and Early Cooley on July 12, 1940 – just nine days after they completed their training at Seely Lake, north of Missoula.

Smokejumper approaching ground.

Learn about the smokejumpers when next you visit our Missoula Bed and Breakfast.

There are approximately 80 smokejumpers stationed and working in Missoula. Free tours are offered daily year round: between Labor Day and Memorial Day, visitors are asked to make an appointment at least 2 days prior to your visit.

If you’ve ever marveled at smokejumpers, or wondered what the work they do is like, plan to visit the Smokejumpers Visitor Center the next time you stay at our Bed and Breakfast Missoula MT.

Bed and Breakfast Montana: Aerial Fire Depot

Smokejumpers are highly trained specialists who parachute into remote areas of national forests to fight the spread of wildfires.

Smokejumper Suit Display

Smokejumper Suit Display

The nation’s largest training base for smokejumpers is located in Missoula. This is a great place to learn about wild land firefighting and smokejumping in particular. Tours of the working parts of the smokejumper base at 10 and 11 AM, and 2, 3, and 4 PM all summer long. Some of our favorite parts of the museum include the cool parachutes, the airplanes and talking with actual fire jumpers and hearing their stories.

This can be a good place to bring the family while staying at our Missoula lodging. The last guests that visited told
us their tour guide was led by an actual rookie Smokejumper and included a visit to the working Smokejumper facilities. If you have very good/bad timing, you might see the Smokejumpers suit up and board the aircraft to go to a fire!

If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to protect the wild areas around our Montana Bed and Breakfast, like the Rockie Mountains just North of us, the Aerial Fire Depot is a must-see for you. The tours are usually a great learning experience and fun for the kids. Adults will probably find the information about firefighting and national fire policy interesting. The tour takes about 45 minutes, is free of charge, and includes a visit to a real fire lookout.

Just one of many interesting excursions near our bed and breakfast Montana. See you soon!