RIO PUERCO, N.M. — Smokejumpers who parachute to remote wildfires with enough firefighting gear to last a few days in the backcountry are practicing their skills over a desolate stretch of New Mexico desert while they await their next mission.
They’re stationed in the state right now to help with any new blazes that pop up in the most difficult of spots as fire danger increases through the Southwestern U.S.
There are about 450 smokejumpers stationed at bases throughout the West and in Alaska.
Smokejumping dates back to the 1930s, when a forester first suggested it as an effective way to make initial attacks on fires.
Nearly 30 wildfires are currently burning in the U.S., including an Arizona blaze that forced the evacuation of thousands of people.
By Susan Montoya Bryan, The Associated Press
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