BOZEMAN — Smokejumpers who survived a wildfire in 1961 will recount their harrowing experiences in an upcoming film set to air on Montana PBS. “Higgins Ridge,” named for the location of the fire in Idaho’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, will air at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 30.

In the hourlong film, 12 of the 20 smokejumpers who jumped onto Higgins Ridge on Aug. 4, 1961, share the story of how the fire surrounded them, forcing them to shelter in place. About three hours later, helicopter pilot Rod Snider managed to land on the ridge in smoke and wind and shuttle the smokejumpers to safety. Snider, now 92, is featured in the documentary, along with many photos he took on that day.

“This is a story that, for (nearly) 60 years, never was shared beyond a few smokejumper circles," said producer Breanna McCabe. “I didn't believe it when I first heard it. But when a dozen men who were there all corroborate the same series of unbelievable events, I knew it was time for the public to hear it.”

A large portion of the interviews were collected in 2019 as part of the National Museum of Forest Service History’s Higgins Ridge Oral History Project. The museum partnered with McCabe for technical assistance recording the interviews, and McCabe collected additional interviews and materials to weave the stories into one film.

To view film details, visit

Viewers can watch the film at 8 p.m. Jan. 30 on or from the Montana PBS Facebook page at

- MSU News Service -

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