Reflecting on 75 Years Since the Mann Gulch Fire -- Honoring Fallen Heroes and Learning from the Past

Posted on 04/12/24

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Memorial events planned this summer will honor the men who lost their lives in the tragedy

AARP Montana Hosting Free Reception and Screening of the PBS film Higgins Ridge

This summer, AARP Montana joins the USDA Forest Service, Montana Discovery Foundation, National Smokejumpers Association, and other partners, to recognize and honor the men who perished in the Mann Gulch Fire of 1949. Several memorial events are scheduled during the first week of August in the Helena area.

As part of the commemorative events, AARP Montana is offering a free reception and screening of the PBS film Higgins Ridge on Saturday, August 3rd, 2024 at the Myrna Loy in downtown, Helena. The documentary outlines a fire that occurred a decade after the Mann Gulch Fire and eerily reflects similar circumstances. The crew draws upon what they had learned from the Mann Gulch Fire and how it led to a better outcome, and new firefighting policies that resulted from the tragedy. One of the survivors of this fire will participate in a post-film discussion panel joined by other key committee members. The reception begins at 6 p.m. and the screening begins at 7 p.m. with the panel discussion immediately following the film.

While the event is free and open to the public, space is limited so registration is required. Register here >>

Mann Gulch 75th Anniversary Memorial Tribute

The Mann Gulch fire was a wildfire near Helena, Montana sparked by dry lighting. On August 5, 1949 the fire overtook 15 smokejumpers and a fire guard. Thirteen young men lost their lives, all of whom had served as part of an elite group of firefighters known as smokejumpers. Another life was lost at Mann Gulch when a U.S. Forest Service employee died while investigating the fire.

“The legacy of the brave men who perished in the Mann Gulch fire seventy-five years ago endures in various ways,” said Nancy Andersen, Outreach Director for AARP Montana and member of the Mann Gulch Memorial Events Planning Committee. “It’s a known fact that their sacrifice has led to significant advancements in firefighter safety. We are honored to help salute these fallen heroes through a commemorative event on the 75th anniversary of the tragedy.”

Quick Glance Event Details for AARP Montana Higgins Ridge Screening:

  • What: Free reception and screening of the PBS film Higgins Ridge, hosted by AARP Montana
  • When: Saturday, August 3rd, 2024
    ⬩ 6:00 PM: Reception Begins
    ⬩ 7:00 PM: Film Begins
    ⬩ Panel Discussion Immediately Following Film
  • Where: The Myrna Loy, 15 N Ewing St, Helena, MT 59601
  • Who: The event is free and open to the public!
  • How to Register: Register here >>

Additional activities connected to the effort include a memorial tribute at the Capitol with a flyover by the famous historic airplane Miss Montana and remarks by John N. Maclean — son of Norman Maclean who wrote Young Men and Fire. Families will be brought in from around the country for a wreath-laying ceremony at the site. Activities are also planned on the walking mall in Helena where Ten Mile Creek Brewery will unveil a special commemorative beer.
To learn more about all events taking place to honor the men, visit the Montana Discovery Foundation website at: montanadiscoveryfoundation.org/manngulch75.

Also of Interest:

AARP Montana Sponsors Half-Price Tickets for Helena History Tours

Don't miss this great opportunity for a fun summer adventure in Helena's history-rich downtown. AARP Montana is partnering with the Foundation for Montana History to sponsor the 2024 season of Helena History Tours. This means that the History Foundation is offering half-price tickets to anyone 50+. There is no discount code or AARP membership required. Simply purchase tickets in the 50+ category and the discount will be reflected in the ticket price.

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In addition to the discounted tickets, the sponsorship also provides for the Foundation for Montana History to provide at least two Helena history presentations at senior living facilities to reach members of the community who cannot participate in the walks.

For the full schedule and tour types, go to: https://www.mthistory.org/tours

This story is provided by AARP Montana. Visit the AARP Montana page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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