Aliciaís Final Jump
It was a typical hot August day in 1997 for the North Cascades Smoke
jumpers. In the horizon storm clouds were forming, but with them only
came lightning and no precipitation. The smoke jumpers would soon find
themselves working to control the fires that were started by lightning
strikes. It wouldnít take long before the smoke jumper base would
have every able body fighting fires and would have to call in backup
The Missoula smoke jumper base received the call late to be ready
early the next morning to help boost the overwhelmed North Cascades
smoke jumpers. I was glad to be on the jump list because not much was
happening in Missoula, and it would be good to visit another base and
possibly get in a fire jump. Little did I know that lifeís course for
myself and Alicia would drastically change and things would never be
the same again. This is the story of Aliciaís final jump.
Aliciaís life growing up was anything but ordinary. She attended
school in San Diego where she lived in a quiet neighborhood. Her
father left Alicia and her mother when she was only five. However,
she was never left alone. She had her mom, grandparents and a family
friend (Alan) that all tried to fill the void left by her fatherís
leaving. Her dadís side of the family, which had come over to the
United States from Mexico, also tried to help Alicia and her mom out
when they could. Alicia loved her father and missed him. She wanted so
much for him to be a part of her life, but as she grew older this
loved turned to bitterness and hatred. Longing to be loved she tried
to please her family by taking ballet classes and did her best in
school, but soon life was boring. She needed a new jump in life. She
longed to be accepted as a part of a group and found that acceptance
with friends at school. Slipping out to go across the border from San
Diego into Tijuana, Alicia would party all night, and get home early
the next day. Before long, this became the norm for her.
She was introduced to a man called Tim who rode with a local
motorcycle gang. Tim became to Alicia what she believed was missing in
her life. Alicia wanted that love that was missing and she believed
Tim provided that for her. They started partying together and it
wasnít hard for him to convince Alicia to start using drugs. Tim knew
where to obtain drugs because he was a dealer. Soon Alicia was
helping Tim sell drugs. Tim became abusive and started to beat her,
but it didnít matter to her because she believed he loved her. As
time went by he became more paranoid that people were out to kill him
so they bought guns for protection. They had fine furniture and
clothes, but no peace and a false love. It was only a matter of time
before either the police or the motorcycle gangs would catch up to
Tim. The life Alicia lived was filled with nice things and a man she
hoped would be her future husband, who was not what she thought he
would be. She would lie to her mom and tell her everything was fine.
When asked where the money came from it would be yet another made up
Something would have to give soon because she couldnít keep lying
to the people she loved. One day Timís best friendís body was found
with his hands tied behind his back, blindfolded and one bullet to the
back of the head. When Tim heard the news he knew they would be coming
for him. The drugs he was on made him paranoid and angry. He believed
Alicia was trying to poison him so he beat her and left her bloodied.
Alicia couldnít take the abuse anymore; it was time to leave. She
called her mom and they hid her in a womenís shelter to protect her
from Tim. Aliciaís mom feared for her daughterís safety, so at the
advice of her momís friend Alicia was to be sent to work for the
California Conservation Corps.
With another jump, Alicia left her old life to begin a new life with
the California Conservation Corps. Aliciaís goal in life was to turn
over a new leaf, and do what she could to help others. She sought out
a career in the fire service, and found acceptance and a sense of
belonging as she started up the career ladder. From the CCC she moved
on to the forest service with the local forest engine company, the El
Dorado Hotshots, then on to the academy and finally she was accepted
into the smokejumper program. The different agencies of the forest
service welcomed her with open arms. Her family was excited to see
her doing well and being accepted for every agency she applied to.
What more did she need? She struggled early on in life but who hasnít?
She was confident that she could handle anything life through at her.
She was accepted to the BLM Boise smokejumper program in 1993.
Some of the other jumpers saw her as having an easy ride into the
program because she was a minority and a female. As a result, those
people felt she didnít deserve to be a rookie smokejumper. At the time
many males were being passed over because of the forest serviceís
policy of fast-tracking females through the program. But this was not
the case with Alicia. She had plenty of previous fire experience.
She was expected to fail by some of the jumpers, but she continued
giving it her all. Eventually she succumbed to injury and when given
one of the required jumper tests was unable to complete it and was
washed out. Had she come this far to fail again? No! She was
determined to stay strong and be proud. No one would knock her down
again. Alicia applied for the Los Padres Hotshots and was accepted.
With her Ďnever say dieí attitude she would once again apply for the
smoke jumpers. This time she was accepted with the North Cascades
smoke jumpers in 1997.
The week before I arrived, Alicia and her fellow smoke jumpers were
out on various fires. On one such fire she was approached by her
co-worker Roger, and he asked what she thought of Jesus Christ. Alicia
had heard both sides of her family mention this man. But the biggest
influence was her grandfather. Being Jewish he read her the Old
Testament and taught her that Jesus was a good man and a good teacher.
So when she answered him she repeated these words to Roger and then
started working on the other side of the fire. Alicia didnít come
into much contact with Christians who boldly talked about their faith
so to her it was strange talk. She knew there was a group of these
Christians that meet for Bible studies on the base, but she had no
interest at that time for the bible. The world to her was about her
fire career, and she didnít have time for God yet. But, God came
searching for her (1 John 4:19) and God began preparing Alicia for her
I arrived the next week at the North cascades smokejumper base
early in the morning. We had heard all the jumpers were out on fires
and some would be coming back that midmorning. We started working on
base helping them get their gear prepared for the next fire jump. I
took particular interest in a female jumper that had intrigued me. She
was very beautiful with light brown skin and dark hair. She was very
confident in herself and I figured that I didnít have a chance with
her. Besides I would only be at their base for a little while and
wouldnít have much of a chance to see what she knew about God. We went
to lunch and it wasnít long before we received the first call for that
day. The first eight jumpers on the list would be suiting up to jump.
I was excited to be in with those eight jumpers and not only get a
jump, but not have to stay on base and clean up.
It wasnít long before the plane was circling its first fire and
throwing out the first four jumpers, Alicia was one of the four. The
winds were erratic that day and making it difficult for a good
landing. After the first four had landed we heard from one of the
jumpers that we had two jumpers hurt on the ground. The spotter
determined then that this was to be a rescue jump and we were to
prepare for this emergency. We were debriefed in the plane that one
jumper had a possible broken femur bone and the other had a possible
ankle break. The rest of us jumped out and landed safely. I was an
EMT at the time and when I landed I could hear someone screaming, and
it was Alicia.
When I arrived on scene one of the first jumpers (Boyd) had
started to treat her. I proceeded to check her out from head to toe to
rule out any other possible injuries. It was soon found out that she
had broken her pelvic bone and that her femur bone wasnít fractured.
By the time we treated her for her injuries, the heli-rappelers had
arrived on scene. Boyd and I transported Alicia and the other hurt
jumper to the Wenatchee hospital. Within two weeks I was back at the
Missoula smokejumper base. I decided that it was important that
through this unfortunate accident they would hear about Godís love for
them. So, I wrote to everyone that was there on that jump if they knew
where they would go when they died. Only one person responded back by
letter, and that was Alicia. She was curious to hear more about the
Lord and what the Bible had to say of Him. By this time she was going
through physical therapy and unsure about her fire career. She knew
one thing was sure from the long conversations, the letters and
reading the bible, that there was something more to this life. She had
finally found a fatherís love that would never be broken from HIM.
Still unsure of what life held for her and why all this happened to
her, she accepted the Lord as Savior and made the final jump. Her
final jump was from turning over a new leaf to turning over her life
to Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:17) One year later I proposed to Alicia on a
pier in San Diego and asked her to marry me. She said yes and we have
been serving Christ ever since. We currently help minister as
volunteer chaplains in the Kootenai county jail to help others find
hope in Christ Jesus.