"Young Men and Fire" was a good read, albeit one that was hard for me at times due to the immense amount of details regarding the Mann Gulch fire that took place in 1949 and killed 13 Smokejumpers. As Maclean wrote, "When it comes to racing with death, all men are not created equal." The race was an estimated 1,400 yards and lasted about 16 minutes. Three quarters of a mile doesn't sound that far to run until you factor in the steep terrain, hot weather, and a raging forest fire rapidly gaining on you!
This story was a fascinating look at the events surrounding the fire, and how 3 men managed to surive while 13 others died. At times, I found myself drawn into the store eagerly turning pages, and then I would get bogged down in all the analytical details. This is what slowed my reading down such that I would stop and read something else when I got bored.
I pushed through those slow sections, and I'm glad I did because I think Maclean buried some real gems of wisdom regarding death and catastrophes in this book. I also think it served a noble purpose in revealing the truth on the Mann Gulch Fire, and helping the Forestry Service learn from this tragic event.
I once heard that safety rules are written in other people's blood, and this is true for the Smokejumpers. The rules that came out from this event seem to be working because Maclean noted, "...in the nearly fourty years since the Mann Gulch tragedy no Smokeumper has died on a fire-line." That is a great testament to the lessons learned, and shows those young men didn't die in vain.