Gates Of The Mountain, MT Forest Fire Near Helena, Aug 1949
11 KNOWN DEAD IN FOREST BLAZE.
FEAR TWO MORE JUMPERS LOST IN HELENA FIRE.
Helena, Aug. 6 -- (AP) -- At least 11 men perished and two are missing in a rampant primitive area fire 25 miles northeast of here.
Nine charred bodies were found in the embers of a once beautiful forest. Eight of the nine are believed the bodies of Forest Service smokejumpers who parachuted to the Gates of the Mountain fire area Friday.
Two more burned chutists died in a Helena hospital today. Another victim was a groundsman.
Only three of the 15 parachutists are known to be safe.
The Forest service said it feared the missing men were dead.
P. D. HANSON of Missoula, regional forester, who held little hope the two missing men would be found alive, identified one body as that of ELDONE E. DIETTERT of Missoula.
The lightning-caused blaze blackened 3,000 acres in the Gates of the Mountains primitive area. With seeming irresistible heat and pressure, the fire roared out of control.
Two jumpers died of burns in a Helena hospital today. They are JOSEPH B. SLYLVIA, 24, of Plymouth, Mass., University of Minnesota student, and BIILL HELLMAN, 24, of Kalispell.
The third victim who died at the fire, was identified as ROBERT J. BENNETT, 22, of Paris, Tenn. The fourth smoke jumper was unidentified.
The fifth victim, JAMES O. HARRISON, Missoula, was a Forest service employe at the nearby Canyon Ferry Ranger station.
More than 400 men poured into the area today to augment fire lines around the Gates of the Mountains fire and another blaze nine miles to the southeast.
By airplane from Idaho, by truck from Montana cities, volunteers joined professionals working on the blaze. Fifty soldiers came down from the Great Falls air base.
Bulldozers and other heavy equipment were ruled out by the steep terrain in the Misouri river canyon and steep mountain gorges.
To the southeast, 200 firefighters brought flames under control in the bull run gulch area near York, after more than 2,000 acres were razed. MOIR said these men will hold their lines unless a high wind comes up.
A mid-afternoon thunderstorm sprinkled a few drops of water on the men fighting the larger fire, but it did knock the mercury down from a sizzling 101 degrees in the steep canyons.
The wind gusts which came with the storm enabled the fire to outrun the men. Flames crackled through timbered gulches, moved rapidly along a front which built up tremendous heat and pressure. They leaped great distances as trees literally exploded.
Many Boats In Use.
Some ground crews traveled from Helena by truck to Hilger's Landing on the Missouri, 16 miles from here, then boarded boats headed for the isolated fire area. All boats in the Helena area were in use.
Other crews got there by road, over a much longer route.
Medical supplies were flown to the forest by helicopter. DR. AMOS R. LITTLE, Helena, former army paradoctor, gave first aid to the injured before they were brought here.
Associated Press Writer ED JOHNSON eyed the fire from the air and called it an "unbelievable inferno." He said the flames leaped from cliff to cliff and exploding trees shot flames 50 feet into the air.
Shortwave radio provides the only communication.
In charge of operations are these Forest service officials: P. D. HANSON, Missoula, regional forester; C. S. CROCKER, Missould, regional fire control chief, and MOIR.
Heat Bothers Fighters.
The firefighters were beset by temperature, as well as rugged terrain. A brilliant sun sent the temperature to 102 degrees at Helena -- the warmest Aug. 6 in 75 years of weather history in the Montana capital city. The temperature was believed to be about 100 at the fire scene.
Continued warm weather is forcast Sunday.
Heat and drought has created a critical fire hazard in forests of Montana and other northwestern states. More than 20 fires were reported in Montana alone in the last few days.
Those who perished in the fire:
ROBERT J. BENNETT.
ELDON E. DIETTERT.
JAMES O. HARRISON.
WILLIAM J. HEILMAN.
PHILLIP R. McVEY.
DAVID R. NAVON.
LEONARD L. PIPER.
STANLEY J. REBA.
MARVIN L. SHERMAN.
JOSEPH B. SYLVIA.
HENRY J. THOL, JR.
NEWTON R. THOMPSON.
SILAS R. THOMPSON.
The Daily Inter Lake Kalispell Montana 1949-08-07