Mann Gulch, Montana, 1949. Sixteen men ventured into hell to fight a raging wildfire; only three came out alive. Previous accounts of the disaster have lacked an essential personal dimension because of the silence of the victims’ families. Shifting the focus from the fire to the men who fought it, Mark Matthews now provides that perspective.
Not until 1999—the fiftieth anniversary of the fire—did people begin to talk openly about Mann Gulch. Matthews has garnered those thoughts to reveal the fire’s devastating effects on the firefighters’ family members, coworkers, and friends.
In retelling the story of Mann Gulch, he draws on the testimony of the three survivors and interviews with former smoke jumpers of that era. The result is a moment-by-moment, heart-stopping re-creation of events.
Matthews’ stirring account renews our respect for those who contend with one of nature’s primal forces. A heartbreakingly human story, it still haunts a firefighting community—and keeps today’s firefighters forever on guard.