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U.S. Forest Service announces memorial tribute for 75th anniversary of Mann Gulch fire

Mann Gulch article
Posted at 7:25 AM, Apr 15, 2024

HELENA — The U.S. Forest Service has released plans for remembering the Mann Gulch fire on its 75th anniversary this summer.

Mann Gulch 75th graphic

Thirteen smokejumpers and a forest service employee lost their lives fighting that fire on August 5th, 1949.

This August, community members, the Forest Service, the Montana Discovery Foundation, and the National Smokejumpers Association will hold a memorial tribute to the smokejumpers and firefighters who lost their lives.

The Mann Gulch fire, north of Helena, started with a lightning strike.

When the fire blew up toward the smoke jumpers fighting it, crew foreman Wagner Dodge set a small fire to create a safe area that had already burned and tried to direct the men toward it, but due to confusion, the men continued away from the fire.

Dodge was one of just three men who survived the fire.

The Mann Gulch is the deadliest smokejumper incident on record.

Still, the fire and Dodge’s actions greatly influenced the future of wildland firefighting, including the creation of the Forest Fire Laboratory.

On the 70th anniversary, Miss Montana dropped 13 wreaths over Mann Gulch to honor the smokejumpers.

More information about the memorial can be found on the Montana Discovery Foundation’s website.