Superheroes Are Real

They jump out of planes. They fly onto the field of battle. They run, chainsaws in hand, into 20-foot flames against the ultimate opponent: Mother Nature. Meet the smokejumpers of America, a merry band of athletes just trying to—oh, I dunno—save the world

By Rachel Monroe

October 11, 2016

It’s a windy morning in the middle of Dirty August, and dispatch has just informed the jumpers at the West Yellowstone Smokejumper Base that there’s a wildfire out in the Grand Tetons in need of their particular brand of attention. There’s no time to shower, and nowhere to go but straight toward the smoke. The jumpers strap on their ankle braces and stuff candy bars in the pockets of their Kevlar jumpsuits. The ready room vibrates with the contained intensity of people who know they are about to spend the next two weeks doing several very difficult things: parachuting out of a plane at 3,000 feet, battling a half-acre wildfire, trekking through the woods with 100-plus pounds of gear on their backs. There remains just one problem: The rookie is missing.