Smokejumping began in 1939 and coincides with the development of airborne Army units. The early days aerial delivery involved a lot of danger as the equipment and each procedure had to be invented from scratch. The early smokejumpers developed a parachute that could get you to the ground in rough terrain with acceptable casualties. The first smokejumper experiments were made in the North Cascade Mountains near Winthrop, Washington. Steerable parachutes were designed and modified. Parachute harnesses and deployment assemblies were created. Protective suits were built. Procedures for rappelling out of trees were devised. Test jumps were made. The first operational fire jumps were made in the Nez Perce National Forest on July 12, 1940 by Rufus Robinson and Earl Cooley.
During World War II, many conscientious objectors served as smokejumpers in the Civilian Public Service Program.