The Mann Gulch fire of 1949 was a wildfire in the Helena National Forest in Montana which claimed the lives of 13 firefighters including 12 smoke jumpers who were parachuted into the area to fight the fire, but were unable to control it.
The fire started when lightning struck the south side of Mann Gulch in the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness.
Foreman Wagner Dodge told the team of smoke jumpers to get on the North side of the gulch and ‘sidehill’ (keep the same contour) and move “down gulch” towards the Missouri River. He then headed off to the base camp. He quickly noticed however that the smoke was starting to boil, and he became concerned. He decided to get back to his men as quickly as possible and get them out.
By that time, the fire had jumped the gulch from the south side to the north side, down gulch from the men. It had ‘blown up’, spreading much faster than anticipated, due to various weather and environmental conditions. This was unknown to the crew because various ridges running down the slope obscured their view of the slope. Only when they came over a ridge did they see the huge fire coming at them, only a few hundred yards distant. The men had to turn around and run for it. Sadly some never made it out.
This video is in remembrance of them.