(Reprinted from the Daily News-Miner on July 22, 2010)
Alan Dunton passed away July 18, 2010, at his home in Reno, Nev., surrounded by family.
Al's life was defined by his family and his work. He began his firefighting career in his hometown of Molalla, Ore., in 1962. A few years later, he moved to Alaska and became a smokejumper. He was the Alaska Smokejumper base manager from 1972-1984 when he was appointed to state fire management officer in Nevada for the Bureau of Land Management.
In 1993, he moved to Boise, Idaho, where he retired from his career as national fire director for BLM at the Interagency Fire Center.
Al was instrumental in shaping the Alaska Smokejumpers and many of his visions and impacts can be seen in the program to this day. The high standards and expectations he set continue to be something jumpers strive to meet on a daily basis. His ability to lead was his true gift, and while many have tried to emulate his method of "Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast," that remains a phrase that only he seemed to be able to perfect.
Al's penchant for wildfires was passed on to his children; his daughter Amber worked at the Western Great Basin (fire) Coordination Center and his daughter Melanie was a McCall smokejumper. His son-in-law, Dave, was a BLM smokejumper and continues today as a fire management officer in Idaho.
Even Al's wife, Mary, worked in BLM fire in Alaska for five years before becoming a teacher. She is retired from the Washoe County School District but continues to do consulting and professional development in education.
Al was drawn to the outdoors - camping, backpacking, hunting, fishing and gardening with his wife, daughters and friends. Weekends found the family at Webber Lake, trolling for trout and sitting around a campfire. This devotion to family and love of nature remained Al's focus when he became "grandpa" to Anna, 11, AJ, 8, Wyatt, 5 and Wade, 3, who could be found trailing behind him like a litter of puppies as he worked in the yard or around the campsite. Playing hide-and-seek, monster eye and fee fi fo fum, shooting the BB gun and taking turns reeling in fish from the boat will live in the memories of the kids for years to come.
Alan's sincerity, intelligence, calm demeanor and uncanny ability to lead with few words shaped the lives of friends, colleagues and family and will echo throughout the years to come.
The family has established the Al Dunton Memorial Leadership Award through the National Smokejumpers Association. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to NSA Good Samaritan Fund: www.smokejumpers.com/the_nsa/good_samaritan_fund.php
A celebration of life will be held at the BLM Silver Saddle Ranch in Carson City, Nev., on July 31 at 4 p.m. All friends and family are welcome to attend. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in (Fairbanks, Alaska) Daily News-Miner on July 22, 2010. Also published in Reno Gazette-Journal on July 25, 2010