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On August 5, 1949, a crew of 15 Smokejumpers, the U.S. Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Less than two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or fatally burned. 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.
Norman Maclean first saw the Mann Gulch fire as it still burned in mid-August 1949, and even then he knew he would one day become a part of its story. Maclean spent the last 14 years of his life studying and reliving the fire. Young Men & Fire is the result, a story of Montana, of the ways of wildfires, firefighters, and fire scientists, and especially of a crew, young and proud, who “hadn’t learned to count the odds and to sense they might owe the universe a tragedy.” This tale is also Maclean’s…[more]