Wildland fires display natureís power like no other forest event. Courage, camaraderie, stamina and fear get toted on the backs of every wildland firefighter along with the essential equipment jammed into every kit. But Dillon packs other feelings. His desire to gain brother Eddyís respect on the fireline makes him cocky and reckless. And his disdain for women on hotshot crews often creates dangerous distraction. When Anna, Joe, Newt and Rachel arrive, Dillonís disgust explodes as Leo learns of the Washington Wolf Mountain fire. Leo organizes teams with Dillon, Chief and Buck as the leads on each side of the fire triangle.
Separated into teams the firefight begins aided by Topper and Wendy, a helitack crew that carries bambi buckets of water into the blaze. Shifting winds quickly transform an underburn into a firestorm. Dillonís team gets thrust back to the safety zone by the fire as Chief and his crew get cut off while protecting the dozer line. In the middle of the fight, a woman appears with two small children frantically explaining her husband is still out there in the fire. When Chief radios Leo the news about the civilian Leo gives Eddy the assignment of finding the missing man. Dropped into the blaze by Topper, Eddy and his team find the man. Then Eddy instructs half his men to take the man to Dillon as he takes two men back into the fire to help Chief.
As Leo understands that Chief is cut off and that Eddy has gone back into the fire, he requests help from the tanker command. But a dry lightening storm and convective air prevent the tankers from flying until the next morning. Leo calls Dillon and tells him the fire has accelerated. He explains that Chief is cut off with no help until morning. That Eddy is also cut off because of the shift in the wind but has hope because Topper might be able to get to him. Leo tells Dillon both teams need rescue. Dillon can only save one. Itís his call. He also tells Dillon that because of extreme fire conditions, if he goes in he may not come out. Itís his decision.
Dillon must decide between saving his brother and saving Chief. Dillon chooses Chief, believing with Topper on his way to Eddy, he has a chance. As the fire rages Topper and Windy donít make it to Eddy. They get caught in a fire whirl with a loaded bucket and go down. Dillon hears the crash. He knows Eddyís on his own. But he believes in Eddy and musters the strength to continue on to Chief.
Chief recognizes an entrapment situation. Because of the fire he doesnít know which way is the escape route. The dozers have exploded and his team faces burnover as a radio message from Eddy is overheard. Newt and Rachel decide to go out to get Eddy against Chiefís orders. Not yet fire savvy both die in the attempt as well as get Eddy killed by their lack of understanding of wildland fire conduct. When Dillonís team nears Chiefís position, Dillon sees itís hopeless and that to continue only risks more lives. Reckless no more, he orders his men to shelter up, wait until dawn.
As dawn arrives and the rescue teams go in, they discover the heroism of the night before and the tragedy that occurred between two brothers, women that dreamed of glory, and men that against the odds did the best they could.
Dedicated to the heroes of the 1994 South Canyon, Storm King Mountain fire, Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
2007 M.D. McCarthy
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