Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and Chris Farinetti Interview, July 4, 1983


Nick Sundt



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Download Transcript of Michael Fitzpatrick and Chris Farinetti interview (365 KB)


Mike “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and Chris Farnetti, smokejumpers in Alaska at a remote fire camp near Manley Hot Springs, describe their smokejumping experiences. Fitzpatrick recalls how and why he got started smokejumping and describes his rookie training. He offers his opinions how he thinks rookie training should be conducted, noting that the training seems to get a bit easier every year. Fitzpatrick talks about on-the-job experiences, including the frequency of bear sightings when jumping fires in Alaska. Fitzpatrick tells a story of encountering three large Kodiak bears after a jumping expedition, and having to climb on top of some abandoned buildings in order to escape. He and Chris Farinetti compare the smokejumper program in Alaska to the program in the lower 48 states. They note that individual bases in Alaska have more freedom to make decisions, whereas bases in the lower 48 are subject to tighter regional control. Fitzpatrick and Farinetti, as well as the other jumpers present during the interview, describe their concerns for the future of the smokejumper program if women are allowed to enter it. They talk about the likelihood that jumping standards will be lowered in order to accommodate women, who they feel are unlikely to have the physical strength to do the job. Smokejumpers Chuck Healam, Ron Rucker, Norm Baker, Scott Neilson, Shelby Rutledge, and Mike Durtschi participate occasionally throughout the interview.


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Document Type

Oral History


Smokejumpers, United States; Women smokejumpers; Gender disparity, smokejumpers; Recruitment procedures, Smokejumpers; Smokejumpers, physical requirements; Smokejumper history; Smokejumping; Forest fires; Smokejumper standards; Redmond, Oregon; Winthrop, Washington; Redding, Alaska; Fairbanks, Alaska; Bear sightings; Bear attacks; Kodiak bears; Grizzly bears; Black bears

Original Date


Time Period

Twentieth century

Geographic Coverage

Alaska; Washington



Original Collection

Nick Sundt Smokejumpers Oral History Project, OH 172, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula

Digital Publisher

University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library


Copyright to this collection is held by the interview participants and by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula. Permission may be required for use. For further information please contact Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montana, Mansfield Library.

Oral History Number

OH 172-034b, 035

Media Type

Sound; Text

Original Format

2 sound cassettes (60 min. each): analog + 1 transcript (31 pp.: 28 cm.)

Digital Format

audio/mp3; application/pdf

Run Time

01:24:06 minutes

Local Filename

OH_172_034b_035.mp3; OH_172_034b_035.pdf

Michael “Fitz” Fitzpatrick and Chris Farinetti Interview, July 4, 1983