Deidra McGee holds the award she was given by the Triple Nickles Association. Photo credit: US Forest Service
It’s been a busy few months for the Triple Nickles, the U.S. Forest Service’s first African-American smoke jumping crew. On Aug. 6 of this year a member of the crew who was the first recorded death of a hot shot wildland firefighter was posthumously honored at his gravesite that was recently found after a long search.
Seventy years ago, Pfc. Malvin L. Brown of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion known as the Triple Nickles, died while serving his country. Because of the racism prevalent in the segregated U.S military of the 1940s, Brown wasn’t given a burial with the honors he had earned. Read more »
Rufus Robinson (pictured) and Earl Cooley are the first two men to parachute from an airplane to fight a forest fire on the Nez Perce National Forest on July 12, 1940. (USFS Photo)
In 1940, Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley made U.S. Forest Service history parachuting onto a fire over Martin Creek on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. This historic jump started an elite smokejumper program, a program born of necessity and innovation.
Since then, smokejumpers have played a vital role in fire suppression by providing a unique capability to deliver large numbers of highly skilled, qualified firefighters over large distances in a short amount of time. Read more »
Although not original members of the first Triple Nickles Platoon, Thomas McFadden (left) and Joe Murchison (right), who is the current President of the Triple Nickles Association, attend an event at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum honoring their comrades. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
Most people don’t conjure up images of the U.S. Forest Service when they think of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. But every fire season the work of the Forest Service’s planes and helicopters, carrying smokejumpers, are vitally important to controlling the spread of wildland fires.
This is why the Smithsonian recently honored the legacy of 17 of some of the most lionized smokejumpers in Forest Service history. Known as the Triple Nickles, these smokejumpers were the first all-African American crew in American firefighting. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service smokejumper Greg Fashano talks with Taryn Brooks and Golan Yosef of Disney Channel’s “Movie Surfers” after landing in a small meadow at Slate Creek on the Shasta Trinity National Forest in California. (U.S. Forest Service/Leo Kay)
The U.S. Forest Service and movies-goers have seen agency-managed lands as the backdrop for dozens of motion pictures over the years, but this year it is participating in the magic of Hollywood in a slightly different way – as a creative consultant for the soon-to-be-released “Planes: Fire and Rescue.”
Two film crews from Disney Studios descended on the agency’s Redding Smokejumper Base in northern California the first week of May. They were there to interview and take video footage of the Forest Service’s firefighters in advance of the movie’s release in July.
The plot of the second animated Planes movie revolves around the transition of Dusty Crophopper – voiced by Dane Cook – into the dangerous yet exciting world of wildland firefighting after he learns he can no longer fly in races. Read more »
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)
During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.
The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.
In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945. Read more »
Official NASA portrait of Stuart Roosa (Courtesy NASA)
Many space enthusiasts know that one of the U.S. Forest Service’s most famous former employees was astronaut Stuart Roosa. The smokejumper circled the moon as part of NASA’s Apollo 14 mission more than 40 years ago.
However, what most folks don’t know is that Roosa brought a group of tiny travelers along for the ride. After all these years, they’re still among us today, living quietly across the United States. Their names – Douglas fir, sequoia and loblolly pine – are familiar to most everyone because they were seeds from these and other well-known tree species. Read more »