In the summer of 1994, there occurred the most devastating tragedy in the history of "smokejumping." Smokejumpers are elite squads of firefighters, parachuting "hot shots," who take great pride in being on the front lines of out-of-control wildfires. Smokejumpers constitute the first and most dangerous stage of defense for wilderness fires.
On a windy day in July, on the appropriately named Storm Mountain in Colorado, the smokejumpers came too early on the scene. What had been another typical forest fire burning in the bottom of a small canyon was suddenly whipped by a strong, stray wind into an explosion of heat and flame which raced up the side of the canyon. Unlike almost everything else in nature, fire travels faster uphill than down. The elite crew of smoke-jumpers stationed along that ridge were engulfed in a firestorm so intense that escape was nearly impossible. Fourteen died before they could escape. The bodies of many of them were easily found because, in a last-ditch...
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