Smokejumper base analysis complete; Winthrop top recommendation

Wenatchee and Yakima Bases also considered

WENATCHEE – The U.S. Forest Service has named the North Cascades Smokejumper Base to be their top pick for serving Eastern Washington over other bases that were under consideration in Wenatchee and Yakima.

 USFS photo The Methow Valley is considered the "birthplace of smokejumping." The initial experimental jumps were made during the fall of 1939 using the first Forest Service aircraft, an SR-10 Stinson.


USFS photo
The Methow Valley is considered the “birthplace of smokejumping.” The initial experimental jumps were made during the fall of 1939 using the first Forest Service aircraft, an SR-10 Stinson.

For nearly 80 years, firefighters have utilized the North Cascades Smokejumper Base to serve eastern Washington and beyond. For the past several years, the U.S. Forest Service has been reviewing existing facilities issues including the ‘obstacle free zone’ and current safety standards. This summer, a group of engineering and smokejumper professionals completed a required Preliminary Project Analysis ahead of much needed, substantial facilities changes.

The Analysis explored a broad range of options at locations in Yakima, Wenatchee and Winthrop. The group analyzed and evaluated several factors including economic impacts, fire occurrence, cost and more.

“With significant capital investment costs needed to improve the current facilities, agency policy requires that all viable alternatives be evaluated,” said Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Supervisor, Mike Williams. “I am pleased to share, all factors considered, the existing Base location in Winthrop is the top recommended alternative.”

Wenatchee is a close second and could also provide effective wildfire support coverage to Eastern Washington. The Yakima location is a distant third and will not be considered further.

“Our engineering, facilities, and budget staff will continue to work through construction options and related funding needs outlined in the Analysis. We will continue to share information with our communities and stakeholders as work progresses on this issue,” added Williams.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) with the Fourth Legislative District released the following statement after securing a recommendation from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region to maintain the North Cascades Smokejumper Base in Winthrop.

“I am pleased to report that the U.S Forest Service informed me today that it finalized and adopted a recommendation to maintain the North Cascade Smokejumper Base in Winthrop,” said Rep. Newhouse. “This is an important step in the right direction, and I was happy to work in Congress to help move this decision forward. The Smokejumper base contributes to the local economy as well as the disaster preparedness level of the local community and I will continue to support keeping it in Winthrop.”

The Diamond Creek Fire in the Pasayten Wilderness, utilized eight smokejumpers from the nearby North Cascade Smokejumper Base in the early days of the fire. Diamond Creek Fire is suspected to be human caused, as there was no lightning detected for the area. It was first noticed by a hiker who then made his way to a ridgetop to report it on the next morning. Currently the fire is nearly 30,000 acres. (see related story).