This rather science-y article reminds me of the book Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It. According to Wikipedia, because Maclean was too young to enlist in the military during World War I, he worked in logging camps and for the Forest Service in western Montana until he went to college in 1928. This influenced his interest in the Mann Gulch fire. (Side note: there’s an annual festival in Seeley Lake celebrating Maclean and his literature).
On August 5, 1949, 15 smokejumpers parachuted into the area to help firefighters already there fight the fires. Suddenly, the wind increased and shifted directions, blowing the fire up to 3000 acres in 10 minutes. The firefighters were forced uphill where they became trapped. Thirteen firefighters died, including 12 of the smokejumpers.
A lot of Maclean’s book isn’t that interesting to me. There’s a lot of science and land surveying and information on how fire typically behaves. He includes tidbits on the types of equipment firefighters used (and/or still use), but the most interesting part was when we jump right into the mind of the young men on the hill, their terror, the hopelessness of their situation, and their bravery in the face of catastrophe. Despite it having been almost 70 years ago, it gives us a flavor of what our modern day firefighters face while fighting forest fires.