Richard Wilson discusses his career fighting fires both as a smokejumper and as part of ground crews in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, California, and Alaska. He focuses mainly on his time smoke jumping in Montana and details his experience cleaning up after the 1949 Mann Gulch fire tragedy in the Helena National Forest. He explains how he and a few other smokejumpers were scheduled to jump on the fire, but arrived too late at the airport, and another set of jumpers had taken their place. Wilson recounts going the following day as part of a rescue team to remove the bodies of his colleagues after the fire left no survivors. He describes the state of the bodies that he and the rescue crew retrieved from the burn site during the two-day mission. Wilson describes how the experience affected the rest of his firefighting career, and explains that he was always more willing to let structures burn than send his crews into high-risk situations.
U.S. Forest Service; Smokejumpers; Mann Gulch Fire; Firefighters; Norman MacLean; Young Men and Fire; Forest fire victims; Forest fire destruction; Phillip McVey; R. Wagner “Wag” Dodge; William Hellman; Walter Rumsey; Robert Sallee; Helena, Montana
Forestry, Land Use, and Conservation Oral History Collection, Archives and Special Collections, Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula
University of Montana--Missoula. Mansfield Library
Copyright to this collection is held by the interview participants and by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula. Permission may be required for use. For further information please contact Archives and Special Collections: (406) 243-2053 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Oral History Number
1 sound file (00:38:56 min.) : digital, + 1 transcript (13 p. : 28 cm.)
Wilson, Richard, "Richard Wilson Interview, September 17, 2015" (2015). Forestry, Land Use, and Conservation Interviews Oral History Collection. 19.