Earl Cooley

It takes nerve to fight fires. But leaping out of planes and parachuting directly into infernos requires a rare brand of bravery. And no man better exemplified this fearlessness than Montana native Earl Cooley, who died Nov. 9 at 98.

Cooley was one of the original smoke jumpers, firefighters who parachute into remote blazes, often in deep wilderness. His first attempt was less than perfect--which was perhaps not surprising, considering that he had never been in an airplane before he took his practice runs. In July 1940, Cooley and a colleague leaped out of a plane over a fire in Idaho....

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