Fire Stories: An Interview with Firefighting Veteran Jim Klump

Today we are sharing an interview with firefighting veteran Jim Klump, who is something of a legend in the wildland fire world. Jim worked as a firefighter, smokejumper, helicopter crew superintendent and district fire management officer over the course of a U.S. Forest Service career that spanned four decades. Jim was part of the first firefighting crew to rappel and parachute out of a helicopter in 1964, and after he retired from the Forest Service, he invented a piece of wildland firefighting equipment known as the Klump Pump.

The Lookout sat down with Jim at his place in Forbestown, California, in May 2022, for an interview that traversed the world of wildfire. We talked about the intersection of fire and forestry, land management, people, leadership and history. We also talked about PTSD, firefighting tactics, landscape-scale backfiring operations, climate change, immigration, the culture of the Forest Service from the 1960s to today, and prospects for the survival of our wildfire-threatened rural communities. Our multimedia interview video features Google Earth map animations and historic footage.