Forest fire lookout Phil Mallory (Larry Wilcox) is bored working a tower in the Kelly Mountain region of the vast El Dorado National Forest. He would rather be helping to battle an out-of-control fire in nearby Vinegar Creek. But when lightning strikes on the mountain, Mallory is sent to investigate the smoke and discovers another potential disaster. The phrase "Be careful what you wish for" is definitely applicable here as the task Mallory faces is almost too much to handle. With only a few basic tools to combat the sparks being blown from a struck tree, there is little time to keep a relatively small area from becoming an inferno. Complicating matters are increasing wind conditions and fatigue. Also working against his efforts is a broken walkie-talkie, which leaves Mallory unable to contact his boss, Ranger Ed Jorgenson (Andrew Duggan) for a chainsaw. In the great tradition of Disney storytelling, courage and strength ultimately triumphs over adversity. When it seems there is no hope for any help, Mallory's girlfriend -- and Ranger Jorgenson's daughter -- Karen (Anne Lockhart) discovers the increasing smoke visible from Mallory's tower. The elite smoke jumpers are called in and another massive blaze is averted. In the end, it is Mallory, with that much-needed chainsaw finally in hand, who brings down the tree from which the sparks originated.
This is a visually impressive episode, filmed on location and utilizing stunning forest fire footage taken primarily from the 1961 episode "A Fire Called Jeremiah." Equally riveting is the action-oriented music score by Disney legend Buddy Baker, heard extensively throughout the story, which is narrated by Blake Todd. The effective use of both music and narration work in tandem to involve the viewer in what is happening on the screen. The story itself was based on a book called The Mallory Burn by Pete Pommery. "Fire on Kelly Mountain" is one of the earliest starring roles for Larry Wilcox, who would later appear in two more anthology episodes: "Twister, Bull From the Sky" (1976) and the two-part "Trail of Danger" (1978). But he would become most familiar to views starring as Officer Jon Baker on the police drama "CHiPs" (1977-83) for five of its six seasons. This series was also a favorite of mine and it was especially convenient that "CHiPs" followed Disney on the NBC Sunday schedule during the 1980-81 season. Both Andrew Duggan and Anne Lockhart (daughter of Lassie's June Lockhart) appeared in separate 1979 episodes of "CHiPs": Lockhart as a visiting California Highway Patrol officer who falls in love with Jon, and Duggan as a corrupt minister running a counterfeit money operation.
- Anne Lockhart as Karen Jorgenson
- Larry Wilcox as Phil Wilcox
- Andrew Duggan as Ed Jorgenson
- Frank Farmer as Smoke Jumper
- Ted Hartley as Jumper Captain
- Paul Micale as Max
- Noam Pitlik as News Commentator
- Clay Tanner as Hank