Mann Gulch Case Analysis

“Prepare the Mann Gulch case with emphasis on interagency coordination and disputes and propose one particular measure to avoid a recurrence.”

On August 5, 1949 there was a dreadful disaster at Mann Gulch, Montana which led to twelve guys losing their lives. The circumstance involved a large wild fire and fifteen guys who were used as United States Forest Service smokejumpers, which was accountable for parachuting in and using techniques to manage, contain, and snuff out the fire (Roberto & & Ferlins, 2003). At the end of the day there were only 3 survivors and lots of left pondering the problem of what had gone incorrect.

When the fifteen guys delved into the fire that day they were nearly strangers. According to Roberto & & Ferlins, “The USFS designated smokejumpers to fires on a turning basis; thus, an individual did not combat each blaze in addition to the very same set of coworkers. When a man combated a fire, his name went to the bottom of the list of readily available fighters,” (2003, p.

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2). I think that it would be beneficial to create teams that constantly collaborate. By doing this, every smokejumper is familiar with each the individuals on the group and how everyone works.

There will be a bond developed between the men by doing this and a trust will be constructed. When the group leader, Dodge, recognized the circumstance he and his men in was harmful he bought his males to drop their tools and follow him. Instead the men, not knowing and trusting Dodge, ran the other method.

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If all the team members were familiar with each other and worked with each other on a consistent basis they would have had developed trust. As a result they would have been more most likely to listen to the group leader, which would have conserved their lives.

Another major issue that day was communication between involved parties. Right from the start they knew it was not a typical fire. The conditions were especially rough that day, so much so that the jumpers could not be dropped directly above the fire as they usually are. Instead they were dropped at an alternate location, where an emergency helicopter could not even reach them. Then due to the high winds, their equipment was spread over a large area, leaving them to collect it. During this the only radio that was available to the crew was lost (Roberto & Ferlins, 2003). Involved parties should have communicated from the beginning.

They knew the situation was dangerous because of the terrain of the area where the fire was burning. In addition, they had to combat high winds, adding extra peril to the situation. If other parties had communicated the smokejumpers would not have been dropped into this dangerous scenario or they would have entered from a different, safer point. Once on the ground they were cut off from all communication because they lost their only radio. Every crew member should be equipped with a personal radio so they can communicate with each other as well as other people who should be in place observing the pattern and conditions of the fire. This way if things with the fire change, such as direction or increased speed, the crew members will know about it.

The last thing that would be important for the smokejumpers is training. They each go through intensive physical trainings, but their knowledge is at different levels. When team leader Dodge lit an escape fire none of the other men knew what he was doing. If they had been trained on this and understood what was occurring they would not have panicked and fled. If they had the knowledge of what an escape fire could do, their lives would have been spared. If many small adjustments had been made that day the outcome may have been drastically different.


  • Roberto, M.A. & Ferlins, E.M. (2003). Fire at Mann Gulch. Cambridge, MA: Harvard. Harvard Case Product Number: 9-304-089

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Mann Gulch Case Analysis. (2016, Oct 07). Retrieved from

Mann Gulch Case Analysis

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