Dropped wreaths mark 70th anniversary of tragic Montana fire

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Officials are marking the 70th anniversary of a tragic blaze north of Helena that killed 13 firefighters and prompted the U.S. Forest Service to rethink its fire training, safety and research.

The plane that transported most of those firefighters to the Mann Gulch fire dropped wreaths during a flyover of the site on Monday to honor those who died on Aug. 5, 1949.

That day, 15 smokejumpers parachuted into the gulch to fight a small lightning-caused fire. They were joined by a fire guard from the Helena National Forest.

The blaze spread to thousands of acres within minutes, cutting off the men’s escape and forcing them to race against the fast-moving flames up a steep slope.

Just three people survived the tragedy memorialized by Norman Maclean in his book “Young Men and Fire.”

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Norman Maclean’s name.

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