Sample Nursing Essays on The Mann-Gulch Disaster

The Mann-Gulch Disaster

The Mann-Gulch disaster was caused by a wildfire set by a lightning storm in August 4, 1949. The next day a ranger spotted the fire and its temperatures had reached 97 degrees, which meant it had a potential to explode. The wind conditions, which were turbulent on that day, also contributed to the spread of the fire. The fire department deployed fifteen smokejumpers on the southern side of the Mann-Gulch. Instead of being dropped at 1200 feet, the jumpers were dropped at a height of 2000 feet because of the strong winds.

As a leader, Dodge saw that they would not make it in front of the fire as it had already crossed the gulch about 200 yards ahead of them. He turned his crew around towards the hill. When he noted that they were losing ground to the fire, he shouted to the crew to drop their tools, and he lit a fire in front of them and ordered them to lie on the already burnt area. As a good leader, Dodge made quick critical decisions while under pressure. He also provided directions to his crew, turning them back when he saw that they would not make it to the gulch ahead of the fire. Improvements should be made on how leaders communicate with their crews. Had Dodge provided a quick explanation for his actions to order his men to lie on the already burned area, they might have complied with him. The astonishment on the crew when he lit the fire on that area showed that they did not understand his actions and might have misinterpreted it as a death trap (Weick, 1993).

The errors in this incidence can be viewed as both systematic failure and personal failure. The failures were systematic since the jumpers did not have backup radios. They also did not have the knowledge of building an escape fire. The focus on fire suppression rather than the safety of the crew was also a systematic failure. The errors were personal failures based on the decisions made by Dodge. Dodge failed to build his team in advance. He also failed to inform them about the reasons for the decisions he was making such as building the escape fire (Maclean, 1992).

To be a good leader in an organization, individuals need to have qualities such as responsiveness to the need of their group, have a sharp perception and provide honest communication to the rest of their team members. Aside from these, effective organizational leaders are also supposed to have critical thinking skills, be goal oriented, and team building skills. Empowerment and ensuring their group members are self-confident and trust each other. The emerging workforce want leaders that lead them rather than manage them. As such, organizational leaders who understand and provide direction to their team members are more effective than leaders who wish to manage their team members (Wieck, Prydun, & Walsh, 2002; Wieck K. L., 2007).

An example of a good leader in my workplace in the nurse manager at the health facility. She has effective communication skills and ensures that all those who work with her understand what is expected of them. She has good critical decision-making skills and provides support to all the members on her team. Other characteristics that make her effective include being goal oriented, focusing on individual needs of each patient, and ensuring that the nurses working with her understand that their safety should be their priority.

I can use her example to develop similar leadership skills and become a respected leader. By developing effective communication skills, developing self-confidence among those who work with me and being goal oriented will enable me to become a respected leader. Other leadership skills that I can develop from the example of these leaders include critical thinking and promoting the safety of those in my team.

Assessment of the Mann-Gulch disaster offers insights on effective organizational leadership, the need for critical thinking in emergencies, and the need for promoting teamwork. It also recommends incorporation effective role systems, improvising, and wise decision-making, which makes the group less vulnerable to interruptions. From the incidence, it is clear that the smokejumpers were not well prepared for their task. Dodge also did not inform his team about the basis of his decisions while building the escape fire.


Maclean, N. (1992). Young Men and Fire. London: Univerity of Chicago Press.

Weick, K. E. (1993). The Collapse of Sensemaking in Organizations: The Mann Gulch Disaster. SAGE, 38(4), 628-652. Retrieved from

Wieck, K. L. (2007). Motivating an Intergenerational Workforce: Scenarios for Success. Orthopedic Nursing, 26(6), 366-371. Retrieved from

Wieck, K. L., Prydun, M., & Walsh, T. (2002). What the Emerging Workforce Wants in Leaders. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 34(3), 283-288. Retrieved from