The Missoula Smokejumper Base was established in Missoula, Montana in 1954. Since then, it has become the largest base in the US. Currently, there are about 70 smokejumpers based in Missoula, and it is the only base with a fully operational visitor center. Other Forest Service operated bases are located in Grangeville, ID, McCall, ID, Redding, CA, West Yellowstone, MT, Redmond, OR, Winthrop, WA. There are also two BLM smokejumper bases in Boise, ID and Fort Wainwright, AK.
The Smokejumper Visitor Center was added to the Aerial Fire Depot in 1962. It is reported that in 1970, there were about 5,000 visitors to the center. In recent years, the number of visitors has averaged 42,000 annually.
In 1910, a series of wildfires roared through the Pacific Northwest and the Rocky Mountains burning four million acres of land. These fires began in remote areas where firefighters didn't have the resources of ability to access or contain them. These fires brought about the idea of parachuting into remote areas to suppress small lightning caused fires quickly and efficiently, when necessary.
Almost 30 years later in 1939, the first smoke jumping organization was established and practice jumps were made in Winthrop, WA. On July 12, 1940, the first operational fire jumps were made by Earl Cooley and Rufus Robinson into Martin Creek on the Nez Perce Ntional Forest.
In 1952, Congress authorized the construction of the Aerial Fire Depot in Missoula, MT and on September 22, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Missoula to dedicate the first Aerial Fire Depot.