The Mann Gulch, Helena National Forest, Montana, in Norman Maclean’s Young Men and Fire

Photo Credit: The Forest History


“Neither Rumsey nor Sallee could see the fire that was now on their side of the gulch, but both could see smoke coming toward them over a

hogback directly in front.”

“You may ask yourself how it was that of the crew only Rumsey and Sallee survived. If you had known ahead of time that only two would survive, you probably

never would have picked these two—they were first-year jumpers, this was the first fire they had ever jumped on.”1

The Mann Gulch (Montanabw, Wikimedia) Photo Credit: Montanabw. This photo is under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Generic license.

Noted for his enrapturing and beautiful description of the untouched American countryside, Norman Maclean’s works have been compared in quality and caliber to that of Thoreau and Hemingway.2 Contrarily, his semi-autobiographical style lead him to assess and levitra 20 mg bayer adjust real life events: A River Runs Through It (1976), recognized as one of his most prolific novellas, concerns the Macleans and real

life events, but compresses many summers down to one. This unique approach led him into non-fiction pieces, particularly Young Men and Fire (1993), which explored the Mann Gulch Fire of 1949. The fire claimed thirteen smoke jumpers and left only two survivors.

Young Men and Fire analyzes the Mann Gulch Fire in an attempt to uncover answers behind the unnecessary deaths. Through scrutiny and on-site research, Maclean eventually uncovered primary factors in their demise: a combination of physical elements and poor safety standards brought the firefighters

to their early ends. Youth and inexperience met with rapidly changing air currents (blowing in a direction previously thought impossible due to the contour of the gulch), heat, insufficient precautionary fire standards, and few resources to escape or endure the fire that encircled them.

Mann Gulch Memorial, (US Dept. of Agriculture, US Forest Service, Wikipedia)US Department of Agriculture, US Forest Service. Public Domain.

In conjunction with the United States Forest Service, Maclean’s research helped encourage heightened fire safety practices and


Find Young Men and Fire at a local library or on Amazon.

1Maclean, Norman, (1993). Young Men and Fire. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press. Print.

2Kazin, Alfred. “Frontiers of True Feeling – Norman Maclean’s Montana Classic”. Chicago Tribune. August 6, 1989.

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