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Extended Audio Sample Fire on the Mountain, by John Maclean, John N. MacLean Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (288 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Maclean, John N. MacLean Narrator: John MacLean, John N. Maclea Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[Fire on the Mountain] renews our awe and reverence for fire’s primal, inextinguishable essence, which crosses state lines, lifetimes, and generations.” 

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Riveting.” 

    Washington Post Book World

  • “Maclean’s well-sketched personalities bring the action on the ground convincingly to life—and knowing up front that many of his main characters won’t survive South Canyon makes this tragic tale that much more compelling.” 

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • “With a reporter’s objectivity and brisk prose, Maclean describes a series of small blunders in fire management that led to tragedy in July 1994 in western Colorado when a thunderstorm on Storm King Mountain, mislabeled by a dispatcher as South Canyon, killed fourteen firefighters…Maclean handles their deaths respectfully and manages to communicate the lessons to be drawn about fire management in the course of a suspenseful narrative filled with admirable, everyday heroes.” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The benefits of hindsight notwithstanding, Maclean unravels a host of lost opportunities, snafus, and human failings that combined with horrific consequences.” 

    Library Journal

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Karen | 2/8/2014

    " I have read this book several times, it holds a dear place in my heart as my father was a hotshot that had worked with several people who died on that mountain. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Brian | 1/31/2014

    " Amazing story of bureaucracy within the government system of jurisdiction that led to deaths of firefighters here in Colorado. Hollow promises and out of control egos also contributed to the death of the brave souls left for dead on Storm King "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Dawn | 12/20/2013

    " 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. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Linda | 12/15/2013

    " This is such a sad story. We drove by the area when the fire started. Being a Forest Service spouse made it even more heart breaking. Changes were made in fire fighting after this tragedy. "

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