Moratorium lifted on BLM smokejumpers

Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Smokejumpers for the Bureau of Land Management are back in business now that a moratorium has been lifted on the agency's smokejumping program.

The BLM grounded its smokejumpers in April following the death of David Liston, a 28-year-old smokejumper from Girdwood who was killed when his parachute malfunctioned. A second smokejumper's main parachute failed during the same exercise, but he successfully deployed his backup chute and landed without injury.

The parachute design was reviewed and several steps have been taken, Andy Williams, a spokesman for the Alaska Fire Service in Fairbanks, said Monday.

Changes were made to the parachute assembly system, including using a metal fastener instead of plastic ones that could break. BLM also is going back to a previously-used drogue connection. The drogue is a smaller parachute used to stabilize the jumper.

Williams said smokejumpers also won't jump with personal gear bags that could interfere with the release of the parachute. Gear bags will be dropped to smokejumpers after they land, he said.

The moratorium affected about 130 smokejumpers in Fairbanks and Boise, Idaho. The moratorium did not affect about 300 smokejumpers working for the National Forest Service because they use a round, military-style parachute.

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