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July 07, 2009

Surviving The Fire

Sixty years ago this summer, a fire occurred that redefined modern forest fire fighting. Bob Sallee was just 17 years old when he joined the smokejumpers, an elite new group of forest fire fighters. On his very first jump he parachuted down to battle the Mann Gulch blaze outside of Helena, Mont.  The blaze seemed routine at first - but fueled by high winds the fire suddenly blew up, it took on new life and jumped the gulch that had separated the smokejumpers from it. Soon the crew of 16 was running for their lives. Through a combination of ingenuity, perseverance, and luck, Bob Sallee and two others survived the now-famous fire. And almost 60 years later, Bob is the only one left to tell the story. He talks with Dick Gordon about the legacy of Mann Gulch.

  • Read about Norman Maclean's telling of the story, "Young Men and Fire"
  • Learn more about smokejumpers
  • Music in this story: Cold Missouri Waters performed by Cry Cry Cry for the album Cry Cry Cry
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