This year's wild fire season was unusually active and close to home. In May, a wild fire came a quarter mile from my work camp trailer north of Healy. This summer there were several fires in Denali National Park, one in the front country where I work. A plane crashed close to our work camp, killing three, and starting a wild fire. A few weeks ago a wind-stoked fire raged through a Healy subdivision. Fortunately, late August has been wet, cool and calm, so the fires here have died down.
I bought this postcard (along with several others I'll post in the coming months) at the air base of the Alaska Smoke jumpers Headquarters on Fort Wainwright, Alaska, literally, my next door neighbor in Fairbanks. The title of this postcard is Patrolling the Line. My friend, an Alaskan smoke jumper in the late sixties, made his yearly pilgrimage here to spend two weeks hiking in Denali National Park and while in Fairbanks we paid a visit to the smoke jumpers headquarters. Surprisingly, the base has a small but wonderful collection of smoke jumper postcards. I think this card shows the environment in which the smoke jumper works. Surrounded by fire and smoke he carries a Pulaski axe/adze or hoe putting out hot spots around edges of fires to keep them from spreading. During the fire near my work camp residence, smoke jumpers camped out in pup tents for two weeks on fire watch. Each day they could be seen walking the perimeter of the fire with their Pulaski and water packs, faces black with soot yet always smiling. People in areas prone to wildfires are grateful for smoke jumpers who protect homes and cabins at great risk to themselves.
This postcard's photo was taken in 1999 by Mike McMillan. More photos of smoke jumpers can be found here.