GLOSSARY - Smokejumper: A Memoir by One of America's Most Select Airborne Firefighters - Jason A. Ramos

Smokejumper: A Memoir by One of America's Most Select Airborne Firefighters - Jason A. Ramos (2015)


Air attack: The coordination of aerial attack operations over a wildfire with ground firefighting efforts is the responsibility of the Air Tactical Group Supervisor. Both single and twin engine fixed-wing aircraft, as well as helicopters, serve as aerial platforms for this mission.

Alumagel: a thickening agent used to create jelled gasoline, which is used in various applications to start fires.

Anchor point: starting point for constructing fire line, often a natural firebreak, chosen to minimize the chance of being flanked by fire.

Backfire: fire set deliberately to stop or change the path of a wildfire by consuming fuel.

Blowup: sudden increase in fire intensity or speed making it impossible to control directly.

Buckaroo: Americanized version of Spanish “vaquero,” referring to cowboys and cattle herders.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM): agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior that administers one-eighth of the country’s area.

Candling: tree or clump of trees burning up rapidly from the bottom; a.k.a. torching.

Canopy: highest level of forest vegetation, usually above 20 feet; also the part of a parachute that inflates to slow a jumper’s descent.

Capewell: release system that allows a jumper to quickly disconnect harness from canopy.

Cargo drop: the dropping of equipment or supplies, with or without a parachute, from an aircraft in flight.

Chain: unit of measurement often used in fire management, equal to 66 feet.

Contained: wildfire completely surrounded by a fire line.

Creeping fire: low, slow-moving fire.

Crown fire: fire advancing through the highest level of vegetation, often independent of a ground-level fire.

Cubie: plastic water container for drinking and firefighting, available in 2.5- and 5-gallon sizes.

Deploy [fire shelter]: use of personal fire shelter for protection from flames and superheated air during an entrapment.

Deployment zone: area where personal fire shelters are used, chosen when possible for its openness and absence of burnable fuels.

Dispatch: command decision to move resources from one location to another, in a process overseen by a dispatcher based in dispatch center.

Duff: lowest layer of decomposing organic materials immediately above mineral soil.

Engine: ground vehicle providing manpower and water pumping capacity on a fire.

Entrapment: situation in which personnel are unexpectedly caught in a life-threatening position by fire; may or may not include deployment of fire shelters.

Escape route: pre-planned and understood route to a safety zone or other low-risk area.

Final approach: aircraft flight path in the direction of landing, cargo drop or smokejumper deployment.

Fire devil: spinning vortex of hot air and gases above a fire carrying smoke, debris, and flame, a.k.a. fire whirl, fire tornado.

Fire line: shallow trench dug down to mineral soil meant to stop the spread of a fire. Also “control line” or “hand line.”

Fire Management Officer (FMO), also Forest Fire Management Officer (FFMO): individual responsible for providing leadership and program direction for the unit’s fire and aviation management program; also responsible for coordinating the development of short and long-range fire management program plans and fire management activities on the unit.

Fire season: time period during which wildland fires are most likely to require organized firefighting activities.

Fire shelter: cover of metallicized fabric designed to protect one person from radiant heat and provide breathable air during an entrapment.

Fire weather: climatic conditions that influence fire ignition, behavior, and suppression.

Firebrand: burning fuel particles small enough to be carried by wind or gravity and hot enough to start secondary or spot fires.

Firestorm: exceptionally large blowup, often big enough to become self-sustaining over an extended period and consume all available fuels.

Flank: lateral margins of a spreading fire.

Front: boundary between two air masses of different atmospheric properties, such as warm and cold.

Fuel load: amount of burnable material in a given area.

Fusee: handheld device for lighting fires, a.k.a. flare.

Hand crew: trained and organized group of wildland firefighters, usually 18-20 individuals, who primarily construct fire line, burn out fire areas, and mop up after fires.

Heliport: permanent facility for helicopter operations.

Helispot: natural or improved area for helicopter takeoff and landing.

Helitack: use of helicopters to transport crews, equipment, and fire suppressants during the initial stages of a fire; also the crew involved.

Helitorch: aerial ignition device mounted on a helicopter that ejects short streams of alumagel.

Hooch site: place to bunk down for the night on a wildfire.

Hot spot: particularly active part of a fire.

Hotshot crew: a Type 1 fire crew, extensively trained and experienced, usually 20 to 22 members, primarily tasked with constructing, backburning, and holding handline, through the use of chain saws, hand tools, ignition devices, and water delivery equipment. They can engage in all phases of wildfire response, from initial attack to mop-up. They are also trained in specialized operations, such as hot spotting, spot fire attack, tree felling, and structure protection.

Incident Command System (ICS): standardized emergency management system to address incidents of varying sizes and severity, managed by an Incident Commander (IC).

Initial attack (IA): preplanned early response to a wildfire that may include sizing up, patrolling, monitoring, holding actions or suppression.

Jump list: list of smokejumpers by name that dictates jump order.

Jump spot: selected landing area for smokejumpers.

Jumper in charge (JIC): first jumper out of the plane and subsequently, Incident Commander of the mission.

Ladder fuels: flammable materials that let fire climb from the ground into the crowns of shrubs or trees.

Loft: part of a jump base where parachutes are maintained and repaired and smokejumper gear is manufactured.

Lookout: trained observer tasked with recognizing and anticipating changes in wildland fire behavior.

McLeod: firefighting hand tool with a hoe or cutting tool on one side and a rake on the other.

Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC): U.S. Forest Service research and development facility for public land management, focused (among other things) on developing and testing new firefighting equipment. (Formerly, Missoula Equipment Development Center [MEDC]).

Mop up: final stage of wildfire suppression, which includes extinguishing burning material, cutting down snags, and trenching logs to prevent rolling.

National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC): federal facility in Boise, Idaho, that coordinates mobilization of resources for wildland fire incidents throughout the country.

Nomex: trade name for a fire resistant synthetic material, (generic name Aramid) used to make flight suits, pants, and shirts used by firefighters.

On final: aircraft flight path suitable for smokejumpers to deploy.

On scene: emergency equipment or aircraft that has reached a wildfire location.

On station: emergency aircraft flying above an wildfire incident.

Overhead: supervisory firefighting personnel, including incident commanders, command staff, unit leaders, and others.

Pack test: one standard for determining firefighter physical fitness, consisting of walking a specified distance within a certain period of time while carrying a weighted pack.

Paracargo: supplies dropped from an aircraft by parachute or free fall.

Parachute landing fall (PLF): controlled roll designed to minimize the chance of injury during a parachute landing roll.

Personal gear (PG) bag: small bag containing personal items carried by firefighters.

Pounder: incident response by ground vehicle.

Pulaski: firefighting hand tool with an axe on one side and an adze on the other.

Ram-air: BLM smokejumpers use a “ram-air parachute,” which is a rectangular, pressurized fabric airfoil, rather than the traditional round parachute used by the Forest Service.

Rappel: descending a rope using a mechanical device to control descent; called “let down” when descending from a tree.

Retardant: substance or chemical agent that reduces the flammability of combustible material.

Rookie: first-year smokejumper.

Safety zone: area cleared of flammable materials available as a protected space for firefighters.

Sawyer: chain saw operator; a.k.a. faller.

Slash: flammable debris left over from weather events, construction, logging, or other land clearing.

Smokejumper: wildland firefighter who parachutes into a remote area to combat wildfires.

Snag: standing dead tree.

Snookie: second-year smokejumper.

Spot fire: fire ignited outside the perimeter of the main fire by a firebrand.

Spotter: individual responsible for selecting drop target and supervising all aspects of deployment in smokejumping, rappelling, and paracargo operations.

Streamer: long pieces of weighted crepe paper thrown from jump planes before jumping to determine wind drift and descent time.

Swamper: worker who assists fallers or sawyers by clearing away cut material and carrying supplies.

Tango union: inoperable, broken.

Tanker: aircraft used in fire suppression.

Tower: Parachute simulation tower used in jumper training.

Two-manner: A small mission that can be handled by two jumpers.

Widow-maker: loose snag or tree limb in danger of falling on anyone beneath it.