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The Thirtymile Fire: A Chronicle of Bravery and Betrayal (John MacRae Books) [Hardcover]

John N. MacLean

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The Thirtymile Fire in the North Cascade Range near the Canadian border of Washington began as a simple mop-up operation; in a few hours, a series of catastrophic errors led to the entrapment and deaths of four members of the fire crew - two teenage girls and two young men. Each had brought order and meaning to their lives by joining the fire fighting world. Then the very flames they pursued turned on them, extinguishing their lives.Weaving together the astonishing stories told by the fire's witnesses and, later, the victims' family members and the response to the official reports, John N. Maclean creates a riveting account of the deadly Thirtymile Fire and the controversy and recriminations that raged in its aftermath. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars firewife 15 Jun 2007
By G. Mabery - Published on
Maclean did an excellent job of portraying the events that unfolded during that fateful day, and that was no easy task, given the confusion and miscommunications that transpired. At times I felt as though I was right there. Parts of the book brought me to tears, while others parts made me so angry at the bureaucratic mess, backtracking and second-guessing. This book is a MUST read for anyone in fire, it can happen to you! I have a personal interest in the book, my husband and son both are wildland firefighters. The legal ramifications, yet to come, are being closely watched, for they will determine the future path of fire fighting
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important Book 3 Mar 2009
By Daniel R. Becker - Published on
Really a must read for the Squad Boss to the Fire Chief.
Not always a fan of the author, but without his book many of the details of this tragedy would never have been told. This story needed to be told. I retired as a fire manager in 2004, four years after 30 mile. I never heard the full story of this disaster in a way that could help to save lives in the future. I know some of the people from this story and some who could not tell their story. There is more here to tell...

This disaster changed many policies for the better. Reading this may remind people that those polices remain essential to the safety of our firefighters.

Good job John!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Thirty Mile Fire 26 Sep 2007
By R. Keegan - Published on
I have enjoyed all the MacClean books. They are well written and pay attention to detail without losing the interest of non fire folks. The latest book is methodical in its countdown to this disaster and accurately identifies all the seemingly innocuous events that added up to the catastrophic ending. I too am a fire investigator but I did have some difficulty understanding his description of the landscape and topographical features thought to contribute to the blowup phenomenon. A few more drawings and/or photographs would have been beneficial. All in all I enjoyed the book and believe he did a wonderful job memorializing the firefighters who lost their lives.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Thirtymile Fire by John N. Maclean 1 Jan 2008
By Paul P. Dahlen - Published on
This is a comprehensive review of the ThirtyMile Wildland Fire in 2001 that claimed the lives of four Federal Forest Service firefighters compiled from all the survivors, investigators, government officials, witnesses, and families affected by this incident. The Official Report of this fire laid blame on the firefighters themselves for the loss of there lives, and the report made was taylored to protect upper-level managers and the Forest Service from blame.

Mr. Maclean sorts through all of it and presents a clear picture of the events that transpired before, during, and after the incident where the time of the fire, the lack of resources, communication breakdowns, environmental rules, fatique, failure to follow fire safety rules, and tunnel vision lead to this tragedy. This book addresses questions that were not asked in the official report. It goes onto describe what happened to those in charge, and what did not happen to those administrators involved.

As a result of this fire, along with the 1994 Storm King Fire that killed 14 federal wildland firefighters, this book describes how through legislation the investigation responsibilities for large incidents shifted from in-house Forest Service to unprepared and unqualified outside government investigators. As a result of this political shift an overzealous US Attorney leveled four charges of manslaughter and five charges of lying to investigators about what happened at the fire, almost five years after the incident happened.

Mr. Maclean also chronicles the almost absolute abandonment of the firefightes and survivors involved in this incident, the heartless measures the Forest Service showed to families involved, and the failure of the wildland fire system involving the US Forest Service.

This book is important to all firefighters because the potential exists now for Fire Incident Commanders to be criminally charged if an injury or fatality occurs on a wildland fire incident, and what it may lead to in the future. Anyone involved in wildland / forest firefighting should read this book and learn from it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Been there 3 July 2008
By K. Schein - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have spent over 30 years in wildland fire, 29 of those on the line. Most of my work has been as a Division Supervisor or Type 3 IC. This book hits the nail on the head in the fact that the bureaucrats will always try to blame the line personnel for any entrapment/burnover incident. I was in a shelter deployment once and was crucified for it. Of course that's a long story, but I was vindicated in the end. But before that, judgment was passed by those without the experience to know what they are talking about. Maclean does a good job digging into this phenomenon. Blame the dead people is standard operating procedure for the agencies in wildland fire. Ken
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