Chapter 20

Cognitive Flexibility

When a lightning bolt started the Mann Gulch fire in Montana on August 4, 1949, the fifteen smokejumpers who dropped from their plane thought they could put it out by the next morning. After a quick dinner, they headed down to the canyon, but to their surprise the fire had jumped the ridge in the rising wind, blocking the downhill escape to the river with a thirty-foot wall of flame. As they fled up the steep seventy-six-degree ridge, team supervisor Wagner Dodge lit a small fire in the dry grass and yelled for the others to drop their tools and lie down in the ashes. The instructions ran counter to their training to always keep their tools and so they ignored Dodge. But the flames chasing them at six hundred ...

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