You've probably seen people putting out forest fires with the help of hand tools and hard labor. I only recently learned that people parachute out of aircrafts to be dropped near the actual blaze. This line of work is called "smokejumping" and has a very long history dating back to the end of WWI. After the war, the U.S. Forest Service began setting up aerial patrols with the help of the US Army Corps. This was to detect forest fires in a early stage. They did some experiment with parachutists but it was found to be dangerous and impractical because "..many deemed parachutists to be daredevils, crackpots, or crazy, and so the thought of having men jump to fires had little chance of gaining recognition.."
In 1935 Aerial Fire Control Experimental Project was started. They would experiment with water and chemical bombings. Bombing was considered impractical with the equipment available at the time. The bombing tests were discontinued and in 1939 official tests with parachutists were started. Much time was spent on the development of special parachutes and equipment. The first actual fire jumps were made in 1940 at Marten Creek in the Nez Perce Forest 1940. Pictured above is the first squad of jumpers.
If you are interested in smokejumping the National Smokejumpers Association can provide you with loads of information. We need to thank our friend Paolo Bellini for sharing his knowledge with us. He sent the enclosed long video about airborne firefighting and smokejumpers training. Amazing..