Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire” as Want to Read:
Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fire on the Mountain: The True Story of the South Canyon Fire

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  575 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In 1994, a wildfire on Colorado's Storm King Mountain was wrongly identified at the outset as occurring in South Canyon.

This unintentional, seemingly minor human error was the first in a string of mistakes that would be compounded into one of the greatest tragedies in the annals of firefighting. Before it was done, fourteen courageous firefighters—men and women, hotshots,
Paperback, 304 pages
Published December 8th 2009 by Harper Perennial (first published 1999)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fire on the Mountain, please sign up.

Recent Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 983)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Sky had turned red…smoke was boiling/Two hundred yards to safety, death was fifty yards behind/I don’t know why…I just thought it/I struck a match to waist high grass running out of time…
-- from Cold Missouri Waters*

In James Keelaghan’s mournful ballad about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire, he takes the point of view of Wag Dodge, the surviving foreman of an elite group of smokejumpers, thirteen of whom died on the mountain. In the song, Dodge is dying of cancer just a few years after the blowup. He is
This non-fiction book has been on my shelf since 2000. We bought it from the author when he spoke at a Fire Department Awards Banquet. My husband has read it, he was a volunteer fireman for 20 years and on the Honor Guard of our local county fire department.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I know the outcome of the South Canyon Fire near Glenwood Springs CO. I remember the summer of 1994. John McLean did a great job of piecing the puzzle together from all the agency reports, the survivor int
I read this book on the 15th anniversary of the South Canyon Fire, better known as Storm King Mountain. The book tells the story of the intense fire blow up that caused the death of fifteen smokejumpers, hot shots, and helitack crews in one of the worst firefighting disasters in modern history. Maclean uses his investigative journalism skills (he was a reporter and editor for the Chicago Tribune) to go behind the scenes and dig into the root causes of the events. By doing so, he is able to find ...more
Jessica Moran
Maybe I shouldn't have read this book just before my husband returns to his summer job as a wildland firefighter, right at the end of one of the driest winters ever in our area of Utah. I do feel like I have a better understanding of what he is experiencing during those weeks he's away. This story was factual, informative and riveting. Well written. And heartbreaking.
This book is a summary and account of a wildfire that took place in western Colorado during the summer of 1994. This fire killed over a dozen firefighters including a number of women and the substance of the book is to document the errors in judgement, the folly of the agencies involved and the pure bad luck and timing of weather and judgement that led to this disaster. This is not entertainment, it is a tedious documentary of the facts as related to the author of this tragic situation. I believ ...more
John's father (Norm) did a great job of explaing the fire situation and the decisions made by firefighters on the Mann Gulch fire (see young Men and Fire). In Fire On the Mountain, this book seemed to target blaming people rather than learning why and the research behind the fire activity.

I would have loved more detail on the smokejumpers who deployed and survived-- and why that worked. Or on Longanecker and where he went-- could that have been a viable option for those who ran if it was better
I like reading failure analysis books. I think understanding the complex moving parts that seem so small in the moment and add up makes me a better writer, possibly a more conscientious person.

This book is a narrative about bad decisions that seemed only a little bad at the time, and added up to something catastrophic. The weather, the decision-making structure, the equipment, the decisions on the ground, they all added up to something that we call an accident. And it was an accident, in many wa
Marva Jones
A horrifying tale of tragedy the made me sick to my stomach, yet I could not stop reading. The staggering amount of miscommunication, poor judgement and lack of cooperation between government agency officials is disgusting, and cost 14 people their lives. I have a new appreciation for the men and women who fight wildland fire. It takes a huge amount of courage, physical strength and endurance. Fire fighting is tough enough... but to do it while climbing rugged, remote terrain, surrounded by fire ...more
I received this book from my supervisor who gave it to the entire Forest leadership team. As the fire season gets started it's a reminder of so many things that can happen when people drop their guard, make assumptions, and don't speak out. It's also poignant tribute to 14 lives lost nearly 20 years ago; in less than two months the actual anniversary date will be here. I went to college with one of the helitack and I now work for the forest that lost so many.

The book contains excellent descripti
Norman Maclean wrote A River Runs Through It, which is perhaps my favorite novella. In his lifetime, he wrote only one other book, Young Men and Fire, an account of one of the most tragic wildfires in American history (the Mann Gulch Fire in Montana in 1949), which was published posthumously. John Maclean is Norman’s son; thus my interest in this book in which Maclean continues his father’s connection to and interest in the firefighting community.

The subtitle of John Maclean’s book is “The True
I found this book interesting mostly because I lived near the fire, and drove past it on the interstate along the river each day. But there's no way not to compare this book to Norman Maclean's "Young Men and Fire," and the son suffers by comparison.

There are similarities between the two fires, and if you gave any interest in wildfires, forest issues, or smokejumpers ( like the Prineville crew that jumped on South Canyon), both books are worth reading.
I'm re-reading this b/c of the resent catastrophic wildfires in Colorado that destroyed 600 homes on the eastern front range. There were 9 fires burning in the state at the time (2012) and it seemed like the governments' actions were fast and efficient - unlike what went on in 1994 in Colorado when 38 fires were burning on July 4th; but none nearly as large or catastrophic as what was going on here in June of 2012. Now, it seemed as though there was no lack of resources (firefighters, engines, t ...more
Charles M.
True story of the South Canyon Fire in Colorado during 1994 in which 14 firefighters lost their lives. Interesting in that the subsequent investigation was botched (after similar errors occurred in an earlier forest fire in 1949).
What a sad and preventable tragedy. Having just read the Mann Gulch book, I was mentally screaming at people through much of this book, but it is a fascinating account of the fire on Storm King Mountain.
Aug 08, 2010 Janice rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Janice by: Carol Connolly
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
Just before reading this book, I read Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean (John's father) about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire that killed smokejumpers. Norman's writing spoke to me more than John's did. Both stories are minutes count between life and death running from a wild land fire blowup. The Storm King Mountain events killed Prineville wild land fire fighters, and I feel grief and sorrow thinking about the people and their families. They certainly will never be forgotten he ...more
Peter M. B.
I tried to read this book ages ago. Never got very far into it as I found it essentially unreadable despite the compelling subject matter.
Kent Anderson
Fascinating book about the fire in Colorado in 1994. Even though the book is about fire fighting, there is application to many other things in life
A friend gave me this to read - he was a firefighter that arrived at the scene 2 hours after the blow up on the 6th. I do not have my red card and only have been involved with small prescribed fires.

I wanted more information and stories from the surviving smoke jumpers and hot shots. I also would have liked more information on the fire. Additional maps and diagrams would have been helpful. I am also a government employee so i totally can see and relate to the cluster ---- that happened there.

Hard to read, heartbreaking. But worth understanding in order to honor those who died and never repeat.
Joan Young
Fascinating story. Gives me a whole new respect for those firefighters. Also got educated on how a wildfire can behave. Also got angry about how some of our government agencies interact--or don't. (This is a new concept?????). It was sort of hard to keep the people & locations straight, but the map at the front helped. Also enjoyed the photos included.
This is well written book that chronicles the decisions that ultimately culminated in the death of 14 on what is known as the South Canyon Fire in 1994. It is a very thorough examination of the players involved in the incident.

Knowing that the story was about a group of firefighters that were killed, I began the book already dreading what I knew was going to happen. It is such a tragic story that ultimately comes down to ego and communication failures. I read this book because of my involvement
Since the book is about the fateful Storm King Mountain Fire in Glenwood Springs and the 14 firefighters who die there, I should have been prepared for the men and women to meet their deaths, but it still made me teary when they described the bodies on the mountain. Maclean researches the events of the fire of July 1994. With the gift of hindsight, one can speculate "if only" and wish that the tragedies didn't have to happen....Now I want to visit the mountain and the memorial created to honor t ...more
Someone with knowledge and familiarity with forest fires might better be able to follow the course of events, but I found it difficult to grasp the details. This is one of those books of which the subject matter is extremely interesting, but the presentation style left me frustrated. In no way do I dismiss or negate the tragedy of the deaths of these firefighters, but I much preferred the "The Big Burn" by Timothy Egan.
OK, I admit, I am a bit biased in giving this book a rating of five stars. I spent five summers on forest fire control in northern Ontario during my university summers. This non-fiction book depicts a disaster which occurred during a forest fire in Colorado. Gripping and with an amazing sense of place.
Fascinating true story of the South Canyon Fire in Glenwood Springs CO. I happened to be there in the aftermath of the fire and then on 2 occasions hiked to the memorial. Very moving. Having a brother as a former national fire fighter made this all the more personal for me. Very good.
Not as gripping as I expected. The author is Norman Maclean's son but this book has none of the lyricism of A River Runs Through It. Takes a long time to get going and telegraphs which firefighters will not survive from the start. A solid report but lacked emotional impact.
I enjoyed reading it and definitely couldn't put it down, but one can't help to compare it to a very similarly themed book by John's father. And if one makes that comparison the latter comes out on top. But, even in that looming shadow, it is still a book worth reading.
Apr 27, 2008 Tonya rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Tonya by: teacher
I read this book as a reccomendation from my teacher a long time ago, and i found it made me more angry then anything. So many things could have been done that could have prevented so many deaths. I'm glad that he was able to put this story out there for everyone to know.
Read this book in 2003 while Tob was out on fires, after we lost a good friend while out on an assignment. Couldn't put the book down. Really hit close to home since we know some of the firefighters involved in the book. Great book, lots of tears, for me at least.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 32 33 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Young Men and Fire
  • Jumping Fire: A Smokejumper's Memoir of Fighting Wildfire
  • Fighting Fire
  • Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster
  • 3000 Degrees: The True Story of a Deadly Fire and the Men Who Fought It
  • San Francisco Is Burning: The Untold Story of the 1906 Earthquake and Fires
  • Island in a Storm: A Rising Sea, a Vanishing Coast, and a Nineteenth-Century Disaster that Warns of a Warmer World
  • Fire in the Grove: The Cocoanut Grove Tragedy and Its Aftermath
  • The Beast in the Garden: The True Story of a Predator's Deadly Return to Suburban America
  • Sailors to the End: The Deadly Fire on the USS Forrestal and the Heroes Who Fought It
  • The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise
  • Volcano Cowboys: The Rocky Evolution of a Dangerous Science
  • When the Dancing Stopped: The Real Story of the Morro Castle Disaster and Its Deadly Wake
  • Cascadia's Fault: The Coming Earthquake and Tsunami That Could Devastate North America
  • Sinking of the Eastland
  • Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum
  • The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth
  • Manager's Toolkit: The 13 Skills Managers Need to Succeed
John Norman Maclean is a prize-winning author and journalist, has published four books on fatal wildland fires.

Maclean was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1943, the second of two children.Maclean is the son of Norman Maclean, author of the novella A River Runs Through It.

He attended the Chicago school system through high school and graduated from Shimer College, then in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, a for
More about John N. Maclean...

Share This Book