Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire

Fire on the Mountain The True Story of the South Canyon Fire When on the morning of July the site of a forest fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado was wrongly recorded as taking place at South Canyon it became the first of a series of seemingly sm

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  • Title: Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire
  • Author: John N. Maclean
  • ISBN: 9780688144777
  • Page: 278
  • Format: Hardcover
  • When, on the morning of July 3, 1994, the site of a forest fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado was wrongly recorded as taking place at South Canyon, it became the first of a series of seemingly small human errors that, three days later, led to the deaths of fourteen fire fighters, including four women Fire on the Mountain sets out to answer three mysteries that surrouWhen, on the morning of July 3, 1994, the site of a forest fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado was wrongly recorded as taking place at South Canyon, it became the first of a series of seemingly small human errors that, three days later, led to the deaths of fourteen fire fighters, including four women Fire on the Mountain sets out to answer three mysteries that surrounded the blaze Why wasn t the fire, which could be seen clearly from an interstate highway, put out earlier Why did Don Mackey, a smoke jumper who was already a legend in his own time, turn back to the fire after making his way to safety And how could such a seasoned group of fire fighting professionals be caught off guard so badly With the aid of papers obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and dozens of interviews, Fire on the Mountain also takes a long, hard look at the official investigation that followed the fire and the divided conclusions of the investigative team If this book is action adventure at its best, it also offers deeply moving insights into the lives of the smoke jumpers, hot shots, and helitacks who fight forest fires and put their own well being on the line as a daily part of their jobs.

    One thought on “Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire”

    1. Sky had turned red…smoke was boiling/Two hundred yards to safety, death was fifty yards behind/I don’t know why…I just thought it/I struck a match to waist high grass running out of time…-- from Cold Missouri Waters*In James Keelaghan’s mournful ballad about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire, he takes the point of view of Wag Dodge, the surviving foreman of an elite group of smokejumpers, thirteen of whom died on the mountain. In the song, Dodge is dying of cancer just a few years after the blo [...]

    2. "Fire on the Mountain", written by John MacLean, is the true story of the 1994 South Canyon forest fire, where 14 firefighters and support personnel lost their lives. It is also a story of inexcusable Federal Government agencies' bureaucratic inter-agency bickering, which allowed the fire to spread and become more deadly. It was the largest wildfire disaster since the Mann Gulch fire of 1949. I believe that while people always want someone to blame in disasters, the Mann Gulch fire had only moth [...]

    3. This non-fiction book has been on my shelf since 2000. We bought it from the author when he spoke at a Fire Department Awards Banquet. My husband has read it, he was a volunteer fireman for 20 years and on the Honor Guard of our local county fire department. I really enjoyed reading this book. I know the outcome of the South Canyon Fire near Glenwood Springs CO. I remember the summer of 1994. John McLean did a great job of piecing the puzzle together from all the agency reports, the survivor int [...]

    4. I read this book on the 15th anniversary of the South Canyon Fire, better known as Storm King Mountain. The book tells the story of the intense fire blow up that caused the death of fifteen smokejumpers, hot shots, and helitack crews in one of the worst firefighting disasters in modern history. Maclean uses his investigative journalism skills (he was a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune) to go behind the scenes and dig into the root causes of the events. By doing so, he is able to find [...]

    5. Maybe I shouldn't have read this book just before my husband returns to his summer job as a wildland firefighter, right at the end of one of the driest winters ever in our area of Utah. I do feel like I have a better understanding of what he is experiencing during those weeks he's away. This story was factual, informative and riveting. Well written. And heartbreaking.

    6. The fire on Storm King Mountain in July 1994 (which has gone down to posterity as the South Canyon Fire due to a mistake that feels--with the perfect vision of hindsight--like an omen of all the snowballing mistakes to come) was a clusterfuck of epic proportions. It is also eerily similar to the Mann Gulch fire of 1949 (written about so brilliantly by John Maclean's father Norman Maclean in Young Men and Fire that I have never yet managed to write anything coherent about why I think it is the be [...]

    7. I like reading failure analysis books. I think understanding the complex moving parts that seem so small in the moment and add up makes me a better writer, possibly a more conscientious person.This book is a narrative about bad decisions that seemed only a little bad at the time, and added up to something catastrophic. The weather, the decision-making structure, the equipment, the decisions on the ground, they all added up to something that we call an accident. And it was an accident, in many wa [...]

    8. John's father (Norm) did a great job of explaing the fire situation and the decisions made by firefighters on the Mann Gulch fire (see young Men and Fire). In Fire On the Mountain, this book seemed to target blaming people rather than learning why and the research behind the fire activity.I would have loved more detail on the smokejumpers who deployed and survived-- and why that worked. Or on Longanecker and where he went-- could that have been a viable option for those who ran if it was better [...]

    9. I first heard of the South Canyon Fire and the story of the Hotshot Crew and Smokejumpers who died on Storm King Mountain when I went through Wildland Firefighting training back in 1996. At the time, the incident was still freshly implanted in everybody's mind. Though some of the official reports had been filed and a reinforcement of the fire safety rules was at the forefront of the training, the story of what happened on that mountain had only been partially told at that time. With John N. MacL [...]

    10. I received this book from my supervisor who gave it to the entire Forest leadership team. As the fire season gets started it's a reminder of so many things that can happen when people drop their guard, make assumptions, and don't speak out. It's also poignant tribute to 14 lives lost nearly 20 years ago; in less than two months the actual anniversary date will be here. I went to college with one of the helitack and I now work for the forest that lost so many.The book contains excellent descripti [...]

    11. This book is a summary and account of a wildfire that took place in western Colorado during the summer of 1994. This fire killed over a dozen firefighters including a number of women and the substance of the book is to document the errors in judgement, the folly of the agencies involved and the pure bad luck and timing of weather and judgement that led to this disaster. This is not entertainment, it is a tedious documentary of the facts as related to the author of this tragic situation. I believ [...]

    12. A horrifying tale of tragedy the made me sick to my stomach, yet I could not stop reading. The staggering amount of miscommunication, poor judgement and lack of cooperation between government agency officials is disgusting, and cost 14 people their lives. I have a new appreciation for the men and women who fight wildland fire. It takes a huge amount of courage, physical strength and endurance. Fire fighting is tough enough but to do it while climbing rugged, remote terrain, surrounded by fire an [...]

    13. A gripping and poignant account of the valiant men and women who comprised an elite band of brothers and sisters on a hellish battlefield. Author John Maclean gives a harrowing and painfully honest tribute in honor of the brave hotshots, air tanker crews and three smokejumpers who lost their lives while struggling to contain and survive the monstrous conflagration on Storm King Mountain. I was lucky to find this book on audio cassette several years ago. Mr. Maclean does an exemplary job painting [...]

    14. This is a really good book, I enjoyed it and learned a lot of what goes into fighting forest fires. The author did a great job piecing together the events that led to this tragedy. If you’re interested in the outdoors, what it takes to fight a mountain forest fire and adventure stories, this would be a good book for you.

    15. Norman Maclean wrote A River Runs Through It, which is perhaps my favorite novella. In his lifetime, he wrote only one other book, Young Men and Fire, an account of one of the most tragic wildfires in American history (the Mann Gulch Fire in Montana in 1949), which was published posthumously. John Maclean is Norman’s son; thus my interest in this book in which Maclean continues his father’s connection to and interest in the firefighting community. The subtitle of John Maclean’s book is “ [...]

    16. I'm re-reading this b/c of the resent catastrophic wildfires in Colorado that destroyed 600 homes on the eastern front range. There were 9 fires burning in the state at the time (2012) and it seemed like the governments' actions were fast and efficient - unlike what went on in 1994 in Colorado when 38 fires were burning on July 4th; but none nearly as large or catastrophic as what was going on here in June of 2012. Now, it seemed as though there was no lack of resources (firefighters, engines, t [...]

    17. Just before reading this book, I read Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean (John's father) about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire that killed smokejumpers. Norman's writing spoke to me more than John's did. Both stories are heartbreaking minutes count between life and death running from a wild land fire blowup. The Storm King Mountain events killed Prineville wild land fire fighters, and I feel grief and sorrow thinking about the people and their families. They certainly will never be forgotten here. Th [...]

    18. A friend gave me this to read - he was a firefighter that arrived at the scene 2 hours after the blow up on the 6th. I do not have my red card and only have been involved with small prescribed fires. I wanted more information and stories from the surviving smoke jumpers and hot shots. I also would have liked more information on the fire. Additional maps and diagrams would have been helpful. I am also a government employee so i totally can see and relate to the cluster ---- that happened there. A [...]

    19. On July 2, 1994 7 miles west of Glenwood Springs, Colorado near the base of the Storm King Mountain lighting sparked a fire. The fire became a concern for the residents of Canyon Creek Estates so on July 5 firefighters were sent into the rugged terrain along with smokejumpers. Due to "danger from rolling rocks" the fight was called off in the night. On July 6 Hotshots out of Prineville, Oregon joined the efforts to battle the quick moving fire. The fire got ahead of the fire-line,14 Firefighters [...]

    20. This is a well written book that reads like a good novel, but is about one of the worst firefighting tragedies in the American West. The author does an excellent job placing you in the shoes of the firefighters and victims. The author also does not pull any punches when it comes to assigning responsibility to the government agencies that could have prevented this travesty by not bickering over resources when the fire first emerged. It just goes to show, you, give the government something to do a [...]

    21. Since the book is about the fateful Storm King Mountain Fire in Glenwood Springs and the 14 firefighters who die there, I should have been prepared for the men and women to meet their deaths, but it still made me teary when they described the bodies on the mountain. Maclean researches the events of the fire of July 1994. With the gift of hindsight, one can speculate "if only" and wish that the tragedies didn't have to happen.Now I want to visit the mountain and the memorial created to honor this [...]

    22. This is well written book that chronicles the decisions that ultimately culminated in the death of 14 on what is known as the South Canyon Fire in 1994. It is a very thorough examination of the players involved in the incident. Knowing that the story was about a group of firefighters that were killed, I began the book already dreading what I knew was going to happen. It is such a tragic story that ultimately comes down to ego and communication failures. I read this book because of my involvement [...]

    23. Not as beautifully written as his father's account of Mann Gulch (Young Men and Fire), but excellent in its own right. John Maclean felt compelled to write this book in order to try to understand a disaster that so closely resembled the event extensively documented by his father years earlier. He clearly struggles with our failure to learn from the previous tragedy. His book is very well written and engaging and is required reading in our fire academy.

    24. Someone with knowledge and familiarity with forest fires might better be able to follow the course of events, but I found it difficult to grasp the details. This is one of those books of which the subject matter is extremely interesting, but the presentation style left me frustrated. In no way do I dismiss or negate the tragedy of the deaths of these firefighters, but I much preferred the "The Big Burn" by Timothy Egan.

    25. As far as books recounting landmark wildfires go, this has to be the best written. The story flows well from beginning to the end. It doesn't jump back and forth throughout accounts, which happens in other similar books I have read, which can just make the book confusing and tedious. It is a book that depicts lessons learned the hard way, but this experience has helped the wildland fire community become as productive, well-planned, and safety conscious as they are today.

    26. I found this book interesting mostly because I lived near the fire, and drove past it on the interstate along the river each day. But there's no way not to compare this book to Norman Maclean's "Young Men and Fire," and the son suffers by comparison.There are similarities between the two fires, and if you gave any interest in wildfires, forest issues, or smokejumpers ( like the Prineville crew that jumped on South Canyon), both books are worth reading.

    27. OK, I admit, I am a bit biased in giving this book a rating of five stars. I spent five summers on forest fire control in northern Ontario during my university summers. This non-fiction book depicts a disaster which occurred during a forest fire in Colorado. Gripping and with an amazing sense of place.

    28. Reading this was tough--I knew one of the firefighters who died on Storm King Mountain. The research was good and the presentation credible. Maclean's style drew me right in. I could smell the smoke and hear the roar of the firestorm as it rushed toward my friend. The images the author depicted remain behind my eyes.

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