On Aug. 5, 1949, a wildfire was reported along the upper Missouri River in Montana’s Helena National Forest. A team of 15 smokejumpers parachuted in to fight the fire as it was engulfing an area called “Mann Gulch,” which had a steep-sided ravine on both sides of a small stream. As the smokejumpers came close to the fire, high winds suddenly ramped up, causing the fire to expand and cutting off the team’s route, forcing them back uphill. A “blow-up” of the fire covered 3,000 acres in 10 minutes, but just seconds ahead of the blow-up, the
foreman, Wag Dodge, started an escape fire to provide a clear path for his crew to exit the fire safely.