Friday, February 29, 2008

Redding Smokejumpers Mistaken for Invaders

Shortly after 9/11, the Redding, California Smokejumpers, using a location for the first time for practice jumps, were mistaken for an invading army by a local woman who considered getting a rifle.

From the Redding Record Searchlinght:
"Smokejumpers preparing for the coming fire season could be dropping into the Swasey Drive Recreation Area as early as next week.

The U.S. Forest Service's Region 5 Smokejumpers, whose base is in Redding, will be using parts of the 1,200-acre area managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for training through the summer, said Bob Bente, the smokejumpers' training foreman.

The spot west of town will be one of five around the north state used for training.

"It's a new area," he said.

Terrain in the recreation area, which is popular among mountain bikers and hikers, is similar to what smokejumpers -- firefighters who get to backcountry blazes by parachute -- might encounter on calls, said Francis Berg, assistant field manager in the BLM's Redding office.

"Yet it's close to town so they can get out there pretty quickly," he said.

Bente said he wanted to give the public a head's up that the chutists will be coming down. The parachutes should be visible from Placer Road near Swasey Drive, with the first jumps possibly Tuesday or Wednesday, he said.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the smokejumpers used a new jump spot south of town, he said. The sight of people parachuting from a plane caused a stir among nearby residents, including one woman who thought it could be an invasion.

"She actually contemplated getting a rifle," Bente said."

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