On the morning of July 3, 1994, the site of a forest fire on Storm King Mountain in Colorado was wrongly recorded by the district's Bureau of Land Management office as taking place in South Canyon, thereby mislabeling forever one of the greatest tragedies in the annals of firefighting. That seemingly small human error foreshadowed the numerous other minor errors that, three days later, would be compounded into the deaths of fourteen firefighters, four of them women. In this dramatic reconstruction of the disaster and its aftermath, John N. Maclean tells the heroic and cautionary story of people who were experts in their field but became the victims of nature at its most unforgiving.
No one is better equipped to tell this story than the author, whose father, Norman Maclean, wrote the classic account of Mann Gulch, Young Men and Fire, in whose publication the younger Maclean assisted after his father's death. Fire on the Mountain took almost five years to complete and involved nearly fifty thousand miles of auto travel. The audiobook brings to light many new facts about the fire through dozens of freedom of Information Act requests and countless interviews with survivors and members of the official investigating team, one of whose members refused to sign the final report after a long and bitter debate about where the blame for what happened should be placed.
Fire on the Mountain is, however, more than mere investigative journalism. While offering action and adventure storytelling at its best, it also provides deeply moving insights into the lives and dreams of a special breed of people who put their own well-being on the line as part of their daily jobs.