Cast & Crew
When a suspicious fire starts in Picayune Canyon, forest ranger Don Stuart gathers together his firefighters and lumberjacks from Tana Mason's mill to fight the fire. Don keeps informed about the fire's movement and its perimeters by communicating over shortwave radio with Frank Hatfield, a pilot flying overhead whose love for Tana is unrequited. When the fire is extinguished, Don finds evidence that firecrackers and wind matches were used to start it, and becomes suspicious that Twig Dawson, a lumberman resentful of the forest service's control over his activities, is the arsonist. While Don is in town seeking out possible witnesses, a horse in a parade becomes frightened by firecrackers and throws its rider, Celia Huston. Celia lands on Don, and after their surprise introduction, they spend the entire evening together and fall in love. Don and Celia marry the next day and belatedly receive blessings from Celia's New York tycoon father Howard. Don returns to camp the next day, and shocks his friends, including caretaker Jammer Jones, with news of his wedding, as everyone expected him to marry Tana, who has been in love with him for years. Tana, whom Don fondly calls "Butch," plots to get rid of Celia, and when she goes with Don and Celia to investigate the fire site again, she secretly rolls their car into a ditch so that they will have to spend the night in the forest. The women maneuver all night for a spot next to Don under the blanket, and afterward, Celia competes with Tana for Don's attention. Later, a meeting of lumbermen is called, and after Mr. Hansen identifies Twig as the man he saw riding in Picayune Canyon the day of the fire, Don has Twig arrested. Just as Twig is taken away, however, a fire is reported, and Don realizes that Twig could not have set it. Ensuing hot, dry weather conditions cause the forest service to close the forest to the public, as well as the lumber companies. Lumbermen fear their business will be hurt by the closure, so Twig, who knows the identity of the arsonist but withheld the information for his own purposes, calls Don and arranges a meeting. By the time Don reaches Twig, however, Twig has been murdered. Don returns home to Celia, who, tired of the rivalry with Tana, has used her father's influence to have Don transferred. Don becomes enraged at her interference, then is called away to a fire. Encouraged by Jammer to save her marriage, Celia drives food and refreshments to the site, but Don insists that Tana drive her back to camp. When fire surrounds them on all sides, Tana calls Don on the truck radio, and he advises the women to lay low in a nearby creek and cover themselves with a wet tarp. As both women run to the creek, Tana is knocked unconscious by a falling branch. After Celia drags her to the creek and revives her, Don boards Frank's plane and drops a portable pump near them. Tana is too frightened to get out of the creek, so Celia drags the pump into the creek and starts spraying the area with water. Don is about to parachute out the plane when Frank knocks him unconscious, and, as retribution for having hurt Tana, sets the plane on fire and leaps out. Don regains consciousness and realizes that Frank is the arsonist. After a gust of wind sends Frank to his death, Don parachutes to Celia and Tana. Don first embraces Tana, then realizing he has mistaken her for Celia, embraces his wife.
Edwin J. Brady
John A. Butler
James A. Millican
B. G. Desylva
Charles Lang Jr.
William V. Skall
Filmed during a real forest fire outside Lakeview, Oregon. Although provided with heat-resistant film, the camera crew had to quit filming when their film began to melt.
Thelma Strabel's original story was called "Of Fire by Night," prior to publication. This was also a working title for the film. The film opens with the following written foreword: "One third of America is forest. Vast resources of timber, watershed, grazing, recreation and unparalleled beauty are found in our forest preserves. The men whose duty it is to protect these resources are the members of the United States Forest Service. To these courageous men and their splendid organization we extend our appreciation of their cooperation in making possible the production of this picture."
Hollywood Reporter news items reported that Madeleine Carroll was originally cast as "Celia Huston," but she withdrew from the production and was replaced by Paulette Goddard, who was originally cast as "Tana Mason." Betty Field was then considered for the role of Tana before Susan Hayward was finally cast. According to Paramount publicity information and Hollywood Reporter news items, some scenes in the film were shot on location at Big Basin in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California. Some fire scenes were shot near Lakeview, OR, and U.S. Forest Service parachutists known as "Smoke Jumpers" were filmed in action near Missoula, MO.