The Mann Gulch Fire Historic Marker


NE of Wolf Creek,Wolf Creek 59648,Helena Area,Lewis and Clark County

Map Location

Historical Markers/Interpretive SignHistoric Sites
General info

Location: NE of Wolf Creek, frontage road

At an isolated gulch about three miles northeast of here on August 5, 1949, twelve smokejumpers and a Forest Service employee died when a routine fire unexpectedly turned deadly. The lightning-caused fire at Mann Gulch was spotted by a Forest Ranger about noon on August 5th. Within hours, fourteen of the Forest Service’s crack smokejumpers were on the ground in the gulch and moving toward the 55-acre fire. Wind, combined with tinder-dry grass and the steep terrain in the gulch, caused a rare and little-understood phenomenon called a “blow up” The result was an inferno that quickly enveloped Mann Gulch. The fire jumped the mouth of the gulch and cut off escape to the Missouri River. The men then sought the protection afforded by the ridgeline to the north. The raging wall of flame moved faster than the men could climb the steep slope to safety. Realizing they could not outrun the holocaust, the crew’s foreman set a backfire to provide a makeshift shelter for the smokejumpers. Tragically, fear drove the men on and no one sought shelter with the foreman; the last words he recalled hearing before being engulfed by the flames were

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