The Rattlesnake Fire was a wildfire started by an arsonist on July 9, 1953 in Grindstone Canyon in the Mendocino National Forest. One Forest Service employee and 14 volunteer firefighters from New Tribes Mission perished. It has become a well-known firefighting textbook case.
After battling the fire most of the day, it was thought to be under control, and so the men sat down for dinner. A wind direction change occurred while they were resting in what has come to be known as a killer weather phenomenon. The fire jumped lines, roared down the canyon, and caught the firefighters by surprise. Of the 24 person crew, 15 were burned alive at about 10 PM as they tried to outrun the fire through the dense brush and steep terrain. The tragedy resulted in major changes to wildland fire training, firefighting safety standards, and overall awareness of how weather affects fire behavior.


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