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One year ago: Earl Cooley

November 9, 2010 |  6:00 am



Earl Cooley was one of the first two U.S. Forest Service smoke jumpers to parachute into a forest fire.

Cooley, who died a year ago at age 98, made nearly 50 jumps. The first time was in 1940 during a fire in Idaho's Nez Perce National Forest. The first man to jump was Rufus Robinson, followed closely by Cooley.

"We didn't know what we were doing," Cooley told the Associated Press in 2000.

There was little training. His teacher had hung a parachute in a tree to point out the harness, shroud lines and release handles, then said: "Tomorrow, we jump."

Cooley's obituary by Patricia Sullivan of the Washington Post appeared in The Times on Nov. 19, 2009.

-- Keith Thursby

 Photo: Earl Cooley in 2006. Credit: Associated Press