EWU honors student firefighters and shares stories from history


Courtesy of JFK Library

By Katie O' Boyle, For the Easterner

Imagine jumping from a plane into a pit of fire with just you and just a few other people in control of putting that fire out. Imagine doing this daily for your job and having the possibility of dying everyday.

Firefighters from the Sky: Smokejumper Exhibit is an event happening in the JFK library from Nov. 1- 18. It will display the history of the profession.

The library will also be holding opportunities for interaction like book signings, featured talks and guided exhibit tours to help participants get the full insight on what the life of a smokejumper looks like.

Dr. Bob Bartlett, one of the exhibitors and co-host of the event explained this as a showing of history of smokejumping. Bartlett is also a part of the National Smokejumper Association.

Smokejumping originated in Washington in 1939. During the event, the story of an all-black airborne unit in WWII will be told. Even though African Americans were allowed to fight in the war, they were still segregated into their own groups.

“The National Smokejumper Association is putting this event on also to honor the EWU students that who had become some of the very first smokejumpers in history,” Bartlett said.

Dr. Bartlett said that the reason students need to come to see this event is because it is educational and engaging. Many people do not know that smokejumpers originated in Washington and the first smokejumper base camp started in Winthrop, Washington.

Bartlett said he believes that students who are interested in environmental sciences, firefighting or anything related should come and that professors should make the students come to the event.

Suzanne Milton, dean of libraries, said “if anyone has any extra time on their hands, they should definitely come to learn something new.”

EWU freshman, Haylee Furth said she is interested in attending this event because she wants to learn and understand the history of the place she lives in and goes to school at.

Book signings will also be available at the exhibits, and authors from as far as Virginia will be attending. Some authors who are coming are currently smokejumpers themselves. Chuck Sheley, the event’s other co-host, also belongs to the National Smokejumpers Association and will be there.

Sheley has first hand experience with smokejumping and said he would be happy to answer any questions anyone with a curious mind has to ask. There will also be information from the “Triple Nickle,” the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion of Washington.

This event is to honor the students who went to EWU and stopped their studies to become smokejumpers and to tell the story and the history of smokejumpers.