For the past 25 years, photographer Mark Thiesssen has shot wildfires and the men who fight them, photographing some of the most dangerous work in the world. Thiesssen joined again earlier this year as he teamed up with a team of Alaskan Smokers, whom he calls "Navy SEALs of the Fire-Fighting World."
Smokejumpers in The lower 48 states typically deal with fires that are a "morning or less", with ground crews taking over the larger fires, Thiessen says. But in Alaska, smokers do not just have to deal with small fires: Due to the vast nature of the Alaskan wilderness, there are no roads in certain places, so Alaska's smoke jumpers are the first and last to throw down the parachute to fight the fires. Line of defense.
Training for the Alaskan Smokejumper is difficult. According to Thiessen, around 200 people apply each year for the job, of which perhaps 1
"Over the past 20 years, I've been doing cardio and weight training almost every morning," says Thiessen. "I want to be prepared for any job that comes to me, be it fire or something else. Every other day I walk 5 km and change my weight with the upper body and lower body. My knees cause me problems, so I shorten the current cardio a little. "
But to actually become an Alaskan Smokejumper, you have to pass a pretty tough physical exam. Thiessen told us about the test the Smokejumpers are exposed to when running for the job. If you feel like testing yourself – and only if you feel good about it – you'll find the training they go through here:
- 60 sit-ups
- 35 push-ups
- 10 pull-ups
- Run 1.5 miles in nine minutes 30 seconds or three miles in less than 22 minutes 30 seconds
- Wear a 110-pound Pack three miles in less than 55 minutes.
Read more about how Alaskan Smoke Fighters fight fires.