Young Men and Fire

Young Men and Fire

Language: English

Pages: 301

ISBN: 0226500624

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


On August 5, 1949, a crew of fifteen of the United States Forest Service's elite airborne firefighters, the Smokejumpers, stepped into the sky above a remote forest fire in the Montana wilderness. Two hours after their jump, all but three of these men were dead or mortally burned. Haunted by these deaths for forty years, Norman Maclean puts back together the scattered pieces of the Mann Gulch tragedy.

Young Men and Fire won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1992.

"A magnificent drama of writing, a tragedy that pays tribute to the dead and offers rescue to the living.... Maclean's search for the truth, which becomes an exploration of his own mortality, is more compelling even than his journey into the heart of the fire. His description of the conflagration terrifies, but it is his battle with words, his effort to turn the story of the 13 men into tragedy that makes this book a classic."—from New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice, Best Books of 1992

"A treasure: part detective story, part western, part tragedy, part elegy and wholly eloquent ghost story in which the dead and the living join ranks cheerfully, if sometimes eerily, in a search for truth and the rest it brings."—Joseph Coates, Chicago Tribune

"An astonishing book. In compelling language, both homely and elegant, Young Men and Fire miraculously combines a fascinating primer on fires and firefighting, a powerful, breathtakingly real reconstruction of a tragedy, and a meditation on writing, grief and human character.... Maclean's last book will stir your heart and haunt your memory."—Timothy Foote, USA Today

"Beautiful.... A dark American idyll of which the language can be proud."—Robert M. Adams, The New York Review of Books

"Young Men and Fire is redolent of Melville. Just as the reader of Moby Dick comes to comprehend the monstrous entirety of the great white whale, so the reader of Young Men and Fire goes into the heart of the great red fire and comes out thoroughly informed. Don't hesitate to take the plunge."—Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post Book World

"Young Men and Fire is a somber and poetic retelling of a tragic event. It is the pinnacle of smokejumping literature and a classic work of 20th-century nonfiction."—John Holkeboer, The Wall Street Journal

"Maclean is always with the brave young dead. . . . They could not have found a storyteller with a better claim to represent their honor. . . . A great book."—James R. Kincaid, New York Times Book Review

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everything that otherwise could be seen. Rumsey says again and again what the something was he couldn’t see. “The top of the ridge, the top of the ridge. “I had noticed that a fire will wear out when it reaches the top of a ridge. I started putting on steam thinking if I could get to the top of the ridge I would be safe. “I kept thinking the ridge—if I can make it. On the ridge I will be safe…. I forgot to mention I could not definitely see the ridge from where we were. We kept running up since

reason Hellman had been burned there and Diettert was burned a little farther on. “Yep,” he said, and was all fire whirl himself again. He wanted to take pictures of it and then and there in late afternoon to follow its course and map it. Jansson was afraid that they already had made too long a day of it, and he knew that it would be all they could do to get back to their truck before dark. He assured Gisborne he would have someone return to the gulch to map the whirl, and Gisborne, when he saw

Elmer Bloom, who had been commissioned to make a training film for young jumpers; Bloom took shots of the crew suiting up and loading, of the Mann Gulch fire as it was first seen from the plane, and of what was to be the last jump for most of the crew. There are five frames from his documentary reproduced in Life, and for all my efforts to find the film, this is all I have ever seen of it. I did find an August 1949 letter from the regional forester in Missoula to the chief forester in Washington

sense and beauty but not always ours. There was no water until we reached Willow Creek. I was sorry for the horses, but I was no longer sorry for us. Such can be the effect of the beauty of a very short poem. 11 BEER DOESN’T SEEM TO DO MUCH to remove dehydration, but it makes it easier to admit error. On the third bottle I said to Laird, “I think I can explain how we went wrong in locating the origin of Dodge’s fire last year when Sallee and Rumsey went with us into Mann Gulch.” Laird

last part was the hardest. MUCH OF THE INTERESTING BUSINESS of life is learning . one way or another how to represent the earth. The easiest way still to abstract short distances is by pace and (if need be) compass, but this is not as easy as it sounds and is never very accurate. It is only accurate if you have had a lot of practice in discovering what your average pace is (inches per pace) and a lot more practice in maintaining an average pace over different kinds of ground. If you are a

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