MEDFORD, Ore -- A smokejumper base in the Pacific Northwest is using one of their skills to help people in need. This group has fought wildfires overs the years in Southern Oregon and recently in Australia.
Smokejumpers are wildland firefighters. They jump out of planes with a parachute to land by the fire. Brett Hilldebrand is one of the smokejumpers. He is also one of the people helping make the masks. He's been to Southern Oregon to fight fires a number of times. "I was on a fire there last season and then I was on the Klondike Fire in 2018." said Hilldebrand.
Something you might not know about them is they are excellent sewers. "We have a bunch of sewing machines and work tables and tons of different materials that we work with. We build all of our own equipment and everything except for the parachutes." said Hilldebrand. "During the regular work day we are still doing our normal smokejumper mission. Part of the smokejumper mission is we have a lot of expertise in sewing. As you can see we have a whole room full of sewing machines." said Todd Jinkins. He is the Chief of Boise Smokejumpers.
The wildland firefighters are using their skills to make these handmade face masks for people that need them. "Here's just a small sample. We are just using double layered cotton material a very simple design with some parachute cord." said Jinkins. In nine days he says the group made 1,000 face masks. "We kind of just have a little production going. Usually someone is cutting cord, for the ties in the back, someone is cutting the material itself. We have about seven people sewing." said Hilldebrand.
The new goal for the team is 2,000 masks. "It's nice to get involved. You know obviously the fire season hasn’t started off yet, so it’s nice to help out and do what we can to provide masks." said Hilldebrand.