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Incident Name: Cochran Gulch Fire, Helena National Forest in MT
Date: injury date: 7/8/1961; death date: 5/1/1992
Personnel: Dale R. Swedeen
Age: 22 years old at the time he was injured; 53 at the time he died
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: Missoula Smokejumper

Summary: Dale trained as a smokejumper in Missoula in 1961. He broke his back when he oscellated into a rock on his first fire jump on July 8, 1961. The wind currents were viscious that day in the mountains. The accident rendered him a quadriplegic. He died from complications from that 31 years later on May 1, 1992. (From the NSA Booklet compiled by Carl Gidlund.)

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He died In Mesa AZ where he had lived since 1989.

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • US Forest Service Heroes Memorial: Dale Swedeen
  • The following information was provided by Dale's brother Dr. H.J. Swedeen. It appears, along with Dale Swedeen's obituary below, in the National Smokejumper Association booklet on Smokejumper LODDs, compiled by Carl Gidlund.

    The ground crew reached the fire, so there was no reason to assign smokejumpers. The wind currents were viscous that day in the mountains. Dale's family considered a lawsuit against the government, but as long as they qualified him for a disability pension we didn't pursue it. I think the supervisors knew we had a serious liability case against them because they gave us the "royal" treatment after the accident. The accident was devastating to the family. I thin kit contributed to the early death of my mother.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • The following obituary was provided by Dale's brother Dr H.J. Swedeen. It appears in the National Smokejumper Association booklet compiled by Carl Gidlund.

    A native of Sioux Falls, SD, Dale attended high school in Rapid City, SD then graduated from Kubasaki High School on Okinawa. Prior to his accodent, Dale had attended South Dakota State University and the Ubniversity of South Dakota where he had ben a radio/TV major. In 1964 he moved to Florida where he completed his education, receiving a degree in nursing home administration. He moved to Mesa, AZ in 1989 where he owned a hair salon, and where he died.

    Dale was a member of the Lutheran Church and the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He also served with the Civil Air Patrol from which he retired as a mojor. He's buried in Sioux Falls, his hometown.

  • Smokejumper Memorial Page from 2002

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Contributors to this article: Brett Rogers, Carl Gidlund, The Wildland Firefighter Foundation, John Miller

 

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