INTO THE FIRE by the author

Fire Notes

This introduction was first used as a silent message on the bands music video of Into the Fire.  Michael Martin Murphey had the perfect voice for this intro.

Into the Fire

Words & Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan  ASCAP © 2005

This ballad song is based on both the past & present experiences of wild land firefighters. In the old days when a fire broke out it was common for people to drop everything they were doing and grab a shovel and go. They would wear whatever they had on at the time and take up the challenge.  Today units are highly trained by the Forest Service for specific roles such as smoke jumpers, hotshots, and engine crews.  The protective clothing worn by these firefighters has a name known as Nomex.

Production notes:

Michael Martin Murphey was a big help in making this song have true grit.  It was such a thrill to have one of my longtime favorite singers in the studio.  When I was in high school I played his classic, Wildfire, all the time.  The fire names listed at the end of the song were ones that claimed the lives of Forest Service Firefighters.


Into the Fire where you will feel the embers burn
And the darkness, where the smoke & wind will turn
Your heart it will beat faster when the hot air fills your lungs. Better thank your God or Nomex.

 And pray that fire won’t run!

“On my first fire”-1979-Plumas NF Fiddle Fire Melodies









Fire on the Mountain & Crazy Creek, are trad.
David Rainwater wrote “Grab yo ass & run”& Dance of the Embers.  © 2007

I had heard the instrumental song “Fire on the Mountain” many years ago.  The title alone sold the idea of having the song on the album.  Being that Dave was such a great master of the fiddle I knew that we could pull this off.  Jim Nelson came in with a nice old-time Americana Banjo Style. One of Dave’s ideas was to introduce the melody “Dance of the Embers” into a Celtic Style song which is rooted in most Early American Music.

Cold Missouri Waters
Words & Music by James Keelaghan© 1995 Bug Music OBO, Green Linnet Music

The story of foreman Wag Dodge is a sad one.  Being that he was one of the few survivors of the tragic 1949 Mann Gulch Fire, investigators made him a target of blame! James Keelaghan wrote his story song about the time I wrote “Underneath Montana Skies”.  The same story told in two different ways looking at the facts of history and trying to find the truth.

Bold Dirt Devils
Words by Patrick Michael Karnahan ASCAP © 2007

No one said that the work would be without dirt!  Having started my firefighting career out as a member of a 20 person line crew taught me many things.  I learned to live in the dirt & smoke.  Day after day you get used to the long hours and smoke.  The greatest thoughts however were of fire camp, a large meal, and a chance to wipe dirt off your face.
Production notes:
With a work song you need to use a real fire crew!  The call went out to the Forest Service and we were lucky to get firefighters Tracy Stelman and Scot Brush.  The rest of the crew was made up of the band members.  I just thought it was about time that wild land firefighters had their own song to keep the hand tools moving in time with the work.

Words & Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan ASCAP © 2002

When I was young my parents bought me a Smokey Bear doll.  It came with a book about the life of the bear.  Years later I would end up singing his famous song at many forest service campfire programs. When writing the ballad I wanted to explore the history of the famous bear with his roots in New Mexico to his great national fame.
Production notes:
Jim Nelson was picked for lead because of his deep dark voice. At times I think his voice sounds like the way Smokey sometimes talks. (Words)
Once there was a story written long ago. About a little bear cub from New Mexico.  Out of this story a legend would appear.  A symbol of our nation, and a message all would hear. You’ll find him in the forest, each & everyday.Teaching all the children be careful when you play.Never start fires, pay attention & beware. With a Ranger’s hat & shovel, he’s no ordinary bear. 

        My Smokey doll-








In the High Sierra
Words & Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan  ASCAP © 1995

At age 15, I went on my first Sierra 50-mile hike with the boy scouts.  In two weeks time I learned what it was to dance on granite and face afternoon thunder storms.  As years pass I realize the impact of these mountains on my life.  From the boy fishing in her rivers to the long hikes over 10,000 feet, I always felt more alive when entering the High Sierra. One line in the chorus states, “looks quite the same to an older mans eyes”.

This comes from the fact that no matter how old we are, the High Sierra will always look the same. (Special note) The song is dedicated to Bashford York. I worked with Bashford doing interpretive programs for the forest service in 1990.  She had a great love for folk music and the mighty Sierra Nevada. Her spirit is found among the tall peaks.
In the High Sierra, all of my memories of youth come alive.  In the high Sierra, looks quite the same to an older mans eyes (to these eyes)

 At age 16 in the High Sierra -










Underneath Montana Skies
Words & Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan ASCAP © 1995
(The story of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire)

I learned about this tragic fire in 1979 when going through basic 32 fire school on the Plumas National Forest.  This Montana fire claimed the lives of 13 forest service firefighters in one day.  What started out as a small lightning strike ended up as a large fire storm. Because of this fire many fire researchers discovered the need for better rules in understanding fire behavior.

When on tour with the Black Irish in 1995 we stopped near the Mann Gulch incident in Montana.  I felt a very strong spirit enter me which gave me this song.  The words and music seemed to come into my head in just seconds.

Production notes:
When the basic tracks were recorded I discovered I wanted to create a more dramatic musical effect. I used the cello of Ira Stern to perform the movements of the fire.  Ken Darby’s 12 string guitar would pick out the seconds of a clock.  The firefighters at Mann Gulch had to race up the mountain to survive.  Only the fastest made it out alive.
Looking back it is sad to note that our band lost both Ira Stern & Ken Darby.

They have gone off in the fire underneath Montana skies, with their packs so laden heavy where the smoke it burns their eyes.  In the line of duty they had struggled to be free. In their youthful courage now in time they’ll always be.

“One Last Look”
Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan © ASCAP 1995

In 1984 the forest service employed me as a fire tower operator.  For 5 months I lived 100 feet off the ground overlooking Kings Canyon National Park.  The towers name was Delilah and was part of the Sequoia National Forest.  From my bed I would watch all the colors of every sunrise & sunset.  In the afternoon, to the west, I would watch small clouds build into major lightning cells.  One day the tower was hit by lighting, it sounded like dynamite going off.  The song was inspired from my very last watch.  After 5 months of living almost 24 hours a day in the same location I became quite attached to that tower.

I was very sad that last afternoon as I watched the sunset and felt the cold fall wind push its way through my metal tower.

Production notes:
Steve McArthur performed on the piano.  His solo captures the feeling of the clouds passing by the tower.  An old friend of the bands’ Jeff Crawford, arranged the light string lines

   My fire tower, Delilah!-








Words & Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan ASCAP © 2001

The largest national forest in America, the Tongass, is located in the state of Alaska.  Alaska became the 49th state of the union the year I was born. Firefighters from all over the lower 48 seem to find Alaska a real tough place however to fight fires.  Every year there are major fires that break out in the Black Spruce Forests that are very dense.
The real charm that is Alaska to me is watching Brown Bears fishing.  All day long I love to watch these bruins perform.  From the north of the Dalton Hwy to the south of Hyder, Alaska is great to visit!
The song was inspired from the very first trip to the last frontier.  I remember getting on a plane in Seattle and sitting there in my seat remembering every television documentary & Jack London novel about Alaska.
When I finally arrived I was not disappointed!

Production notes:
What gave this recording the majesty of Alaska was the strong vocal from Jim Nelson and the French horn of John Baker.

With the Yukon River winding down from the tundra to the sea, where Eagles fly and the bear survives in, perfect harmony.


   Me at Hyder, Alaska in 2001-











Boots of the Forester
A song for Gifford Pinchot ~ America’s first forester 1905-1910
Words & Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan ASCAP © 2001

The most important piece of equipment a forest ranger will own will be his boots.  In my first year working in the woods I realized that the quality of the boot counts. It is common for fire fighters to brag about their favorite name brands like Whites, or Wescos.  One thing is for sure your boots will take you through the hot coals of the fire, a place that tennis shoes would never dare tread!

Production notes: Rick with his school children sang the last chorus.(see Smokey the Bear notes)

For the boots of the forester will hike a thousand miles. Up ridges steep, down canyons deep through the pristine and the wild.  A hundred years of service -- to a nation and her trees.  Protecting the forest, only footprints will they leave.

Me & the worlds largest Sugar Pine










“Smokey the Bear”
Words & Music by Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins

What firefighting album would be complete without the original version of “Smokey the Bear”?
This song ballad written by Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins was recorded my famous western star Gene Autry.

Production notes:
Richard Restivo sang lead on this fun ballad with the help of his children and some of his students which include.  Lizzy & Maria Restivo, Darae Jun, Nikki Wellington, Samantha Garman, and Joanna Johnson.  I think Rick Restivo really captured the nature of Smokey in his voice!

The real Smokey-














Last Flight of 123
Words & Music Patrick Michael Karnahan ASCAP © 2007
(Up with the angels in heaven they’ll soar!)

In 2002, on the Big Elk Fire, the very last WW-2 fire bomber made its flight! After the tragic crash all of the old air tankers were taken out of service forever.  I wrote this song because of a personal relationship I had with the old PB4-Y plane.  In my artwork I had used the ship as subject matter many times.  On a band tour of Wyoming in 1998, I spent a whole afternoon walking around the Hawkins & Power Base where they kept #123.  When I heard the news of the tragic crash it broke my heart.  My other connection was from my father who flew in B-24s over Europe in WW-2.  Having flown in a B-24, I would say that anyone who flies those large planes over a burning fire is brave indeed!

Production notes:
Even though the story was tragic I wanted the song to sound like an old pub song from the First World War.  I see the flyers gathering around and singing to their lost airmen over a toast!  I kept the instruments simple.  I used the bass notes on the Melodeon, while I had Dave perform on the 1920s Banjo/Mando.  On vocals I brought in our firefighters Scott Brush and Tracy Stelman along with old band-mate Chris Miller doing Steve’s harmony.   Lead Vocal: Steve McArthur
Here’s to the last fight of 123, the bravest of flyers let their spirits be free.  Down from the battle they’ll fight never more.  Up with the angels in heaven will soar!

    (oil painting Patrick Michael Karnahan)


(“Heroes who become Angels”)
Music by Patrick Michael Karnahan ASCAP © 2004

On July 6th, 1994 on Storm King Mountain, located seven miles from Glenwood Springs Colorado, 14 BLM/Forest Service crewmembers perished in a firestorm. Dry lightning had set off the blaze days before. With high winds, dry flammable Gambel Oaks, and steep mountain slopes the flames grew over 200 feet tall.  The firefighters tried to out race the fire but to no avail.  It should be noted however that 35 firefighters survived the fire by escaping to a safety area and deploying fire shelters.

Production notes:This melody is dedicated to the fallen fourteen.
Arranged and Conducted by Howard Hudiberg
Performed by the Texas State Symphony:
Kathi Beck * Tami Bickett * Scott Blecha Levi Brinkley * Robert Browning
Doug Dunbar * Terri Hagen * Bonnie Holtby
Rob Johnson * Jon Kelso * Don Mackey
Roger Roth * James Thrash * Richard Tyler






 “Angel of the Mountain”










Author Patrick Michael Karnahan
In uniform for a campfire program.