Mann Gulch fire–60 years ago

On August 5, 1949 on the Helena National Forest, a wildfire entrapped 15 smokejumpers and a fire guard in Mann Gulch. Before it was controlled the fire took the lives of 13 men and burned nearly 5,000 acres.

The fatalities:

  • Robert J. Bennett
  • Eldon E. Diettert
  • James O. Harrison
  • William J. Hellman
  • Philip R. McVey
  • David R. Navon
  • Leonard L. Piper
  • Stanley J. Reba
  • Marvin L. Sherman
  • Joseph B. Sylvia
  • Henry J. Thol, Jr.
  • Newton R. Thompson
  • Silas R. Thompson
The 13 men who were killed in the Mann Gulch fire. U. S. Forest Service photo.

The story of this fire was told by Norman Maclean in his book “Young Men and Fire”.

The Six Minutes for Safety overview of the fire is HERE.

As Wildfire Today reported earlier, on August 2-5, 2009 the Helena National Forest along with the National Smokejumpers Association will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Mann Gulch fire at the Meriwether picnic area through informal interpretive programs highlighting the Mann Gulch Fire, impacts the Mann Gulch tragedy has had on firefighting techniques and smokejumping and the associated equipment.

Three smokejumpers—John McKinnon, Carl Gidland and Roland Anderson—will at the Meriwether picnic area to speak to people about Mann Gulch, current and historic fire fighting techniques and much more.

Here is a photo of Mann Gulch taken in 2008, from The Travels of John and Breya.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.