The Wenatchee World

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Smokejumper

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I went to Winthrop Wednesday to the forest service's smokejumping base to photograph Dale Longanecker who is retiring Friday after jumping a record breaking 895 times. He was scheduled to take his last jump, a training jump, that morning.

After meeting him, photographing him getting his gear set up, and receiving a short tour of the base, I hopped into a van for a short trip to the landing area up in the forest near Winthrop.

I found out that he'd be the fifth person out of the plane and I was allowed pretty free access at the landing area, being told that the parachutists would be able to avoid me if I didn't move in their way at the last moment.

Dale came out of the plane as predicted and began drifting over to where I was standing but a breeze came up and pushed his parachute toward a large pine tree and as I was shooting photos, he came down through the branches to the ground.

It was an impressive jump for me but probably a little embarrassing for Dale. We'll run a photo of him coming down through the tree because that's what happened but downplayed a bit as the focus is really on his career and not this last jump.