History Channel will broadcast a show filmed in the region | Archives

If you tune into the History Channel at 9 p.m. on October 28, you’ll be sure to see the faces of area firefighters as the two-hour film, “Fire on the Mountain,” airs.

The film, based on John MacLean’s book of the same title, was discussed by Rew, Pennsylvania, firefighter Tim Crissman at a recent Kiwanis Club meeting in Bradford, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Crissman, who has been a wildland firefighter in the Western States for the past 20 years, served as wildfire coordinator for the film’s producers, Kirk and Lisa Wolfinger. Mr. Wolfinger’s brother, Sandy Wolfinger, lives in the Olean area and knew Mr. Crissman and his abilities in the logging industry.

“Sandy is a forester, so he had access to lots and lots of land,” Crissman said. “That’s how he was shot in the East Smethport (Pennsylvania), Olean and Portville areas,” Crissman said.

Mr Crissman said Sandy Wolfinger helped him settle in with his brother Kirk Wolfinger, owner of production company Lone Wolf Pictures.

The film explores a 1949 fire in Mann Gulch, Montana, killing 13 firefighters, and a 1994 fire in Storm King Mountain, Colorado, killing 14 firefighters. The 1949 fire was described by John MacLean’s father, Norman MacLean, in his book “Young Men and Fire”. Norman MacLean is best known for another book he wrote: “A River Runs Through It”.

During a week of filming in the Twin Tiers area in the summer of 2001, firefighters from local fire departments such as Olean were filmed in close-ups. Viewers will also see Olean Fire Chief Robert Bell and area resident Ian Clark deliver a few lines in the film. Sandy Wolfinger is also portrayed as Wagner Dodge, a main character from the 1949 fire. Sandy’s son, Shawn Wolfinger of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, was also pictured in a poster advertising the film.

Sandy Wolfinger said his brother chose to do close-ups of the firefighters in the Twin Tiers in part because there was less risk of the fire spreading to the eastern forests. There is also actual footage of wildfires in the West shown in the film.

“Kirk called me and said, ‘I need to burn some of your wood, can I do that? said Sandy Wolfinger.

He said the burning was actually very closely supervised by New Jersey pyrotechnics experts who were skilled enough to control the flames and smoke seen in the film. The local fire companies of Olean, Portville, WestonÞs Mills and Smethport also acted as backup control for these shoots.

“We wanted to involve as many local people as possible for endorsement and to serve as extras for the film,” Sandy Wolfinger said of the fire companies.

He said Mr Crissman, who is also seen in the film, provided information on actual techniques used in wildfire fighting.

“Tim (was the expert) on how they fought fires, the tools they used, their methods and their lingo,” Sandy Wolfinger said. ßHe was, frankly, very good at it and my brother and my sister-in-law were very happy.à

Sandy Wolfinger said a hillside shot during filming was taken in a ridge area at the Pfeiffer Nature Center in Portville. Other shots were taken on land he owns in the Olean and Smethport areas.

He said he recently attended a premiere of the film at a theater in Missoula, Montana, and 1,400 people in attendance gave him a standing ovation. Additionally, the film was recently screened at a private premiere at Olean.

For his part, Crissman said he enjoyed his work with the production company and thought the whole experience was great.

“What was harder was the costumes and the uniforms…and getting the right backpacks and the right colors of helmets and boots,” he said.