The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #8691   Message #55340
Posted By: rich r
23-Jan-99 - 10:23 AM
Thread Name: Lyr ADD Cold Missouri Waters (James Keelaghan)
Subject: RE: James Keelaghan's
The song is based on an incident called the Mann Gulch fire in the Helena (MT) National Forest that occurred on August 5, 1949. 16 firefighters who had parachuted in on the fire (smokejumpers) were trapped when the fire jumped the gulch and roared up the canyon at the men. 12 died directly, a 13th died the following day and only three survived. Two of the survivors reached safety by scrambling through a rock crevice to reach the ridge. The other survivor, the crew leader R. Wagner Dodge, survived by starting a fire in the tall grass of the slope they were scrambling up, jumping into the midle of the burned out are, covering his face with a wet cloth and droppin to the ground. He attempted to get others to join him in the "fire circle" but was ignored. The Mann Gulch fire has been extensivley studied and analyzed by the fire fighting community. Dodge's "escape" technique is now taught as an emergency procedure with the addtion of a heat reflective fire shelter blanket that wildfire fighters cary as standard equipment. Keelaghan based his song on the reading of the book "Young Men and Fire" by Norman Maclean (1992, Univ Chicago Press). Maclean is best know for his book "A River Runs Through It" which was a popular movie a few years ago. In addition to the book, a wealth of information can be found at the Wildfire Magazine web site ( Scroll down the left to their search function, type in "mann gulch" and you will get links to a number of articles including an excerpt of Maclean's book. In 1994, 14 firefighters were killed in Colorado's South Canyon fire (aka Storm King Mountain) under circumstances that were eeriely similar to Mann Gulch. Am important aspect of both was the breakdown of group organization and cohesion in time of sever stress (panic). Searching "south canyon" at the same web site brings up numerous articles related to that tragedy as well.

rich r