Young Men and Fire
by Norman Maclean
On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen of the United States Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, The Smoke Jumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or mortally burned from a "blowup" -- an explosive, 2,000-degree firestorm 300 feet deep and 200 feet tall -- a deadly explosion of flame and wind rarely encountered and little understood at the time. Only seconds ahead of the approaching firestorm, the foreman, R. Wagner Dodge, throws himself into the ashes of an "escape fire " - and survives as most of his confused men run, their last moments obscured by smoke. The parents of the dead cry murder, charging that the foreman's fire killed their boys. Exactly what happened in Mann Gulch that day has been obscured by years of grief and controversy. Now a master storyteller finally gives the Mann Gulch fire its due as tragedy.