On August 5, 1949, at 4.10 pm local time, a crew of fifteen Smokejumpers — United States Forest Service’s elite airborne firefighters — parachuted into Helena National forest in the state of Montana.
The fire started when lightning struck the south side of Mann Gulch at the Gates of the Mountains, a canyon over five miles, running along the Missouri River. A gulch is a topographic structure with slopes on both sides running down to a ravine.
First spotted by Jim Harrison, a firefighter himself, the fire was spread over an area of 50-60 acres wide.
By the time the smokejumpers landed on the top of the north side hill, Harrison had been fighting the fire alone for the past four hours.
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