Smokejumper Base Restoration

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NEAR CAVE JUNCTION, Ore. — This may be the time many people are heading to their favorite vacation spots to rest and relax, but not a dedicated group of former Forest Service employees.

Dozens of retired smokejumpers, their spouses and friends are rolling up their sleeves to do more restoration work on the historic smokejumper base at the Illinois Valley Airport.

They are painting, roofing, shingling siding and doing dozens of other maintenance projects this week. They say it’s not work when you’re with friends.

“There’s still 250 alive. Some of the guys are in their 90’s, but we also become very close to their families over the years. So, it’s a real extended kind of family – brotherhood – that we have. So, that’s where a lot of our strength comes from, that brotherhood camaraderie,” said project coordinator Gary Buck.

Gary Buck says an estimate 400 smokejumpers served at the base in the nearly 40 years it was open. It’s open now every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as a museum.