Monday, July 6, 2020 marked the 26th anniversary of the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain that took the lives of 14 wildland firefighters in 1994. Every year on this day firefighters from across the state and nation climb the steep mountain through dense oak brush and over rugged terrain, often in the heat of the day, to honor the Storm King 14 who died battling the fire.
The firefighters who died are: Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Douglas Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso, Don Mackey, Roger Roth, Jim Thrash, Robert Browning, Jr. and Richard Tyler.
PHOTOS: Glenwood’s Downtown Market
Tuesday evening was the second week of Glenwood’s Downtown Market. This year the market moved to it’s new location along Seventh Street utilizing downtown’s “festival street”.
An estimated 15 vendors set up to sell produce, hand made items, ice cream, elk sausage, mini donuts, and more. The downtown market will continue every Tuesday evening starting at 4 p.m. through the summer months.
Photo Essay: Hearts for Rifle
Last week, the efforts of two local women covered the exterior and windows of the Rifle Police Department with hearts to show local officers some love.
Co-organizer Jessey Yeager said she saw a post on social media in which a group of citizens got together and decorated the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office in Grand Junction.
“They had posted hearts all over the building and I just thought it was a great opportunity for the Rifle community to come out to show support for the Rifle PD. Just give them some love and support,” Yeager said.
During the heat of the afternoon parents and children took a few moments out of their day to write a message on a heart and tape it to the windows in front of the department.
One by one the windows and doors filled up with personal messages of how the department has helped and drawings inspired by local officers.
“We just thought this was a good way to give an opportunity to the community to show their support for law enforcement in general,” co-organizer Kelly Bartunek said. “Our police department has a really good reputation in the city; we wanted to give the time in light of recent events that have been really tough on police officers.”
Bartuneks has first-hand experience of what it is like for law enforcement officers. Her husband Jared Bartunek, is a corporal and K-9 officer with the Rifle Police Department.
In conversations at home her husband has told her about all the positive feedback he has received while in uniform and on duty.
“His morale has been boosted by members of the community really stepping up and showing support,” Kelly said.
The kindness didn’t go unseen as several officers on duty either stopped by while on patrol or stepped out of the office taking a break from their reports.
“It’s fantastic to know that we have the support of our community, a lot of time on the news we don’t see it that way from the mainstream media,” Cpl. Jared Bartunek said. “It feels good.”
Photo Essay: March on Rifle
Black Lives Matter and pro-police supporters were joined by a few other groups as they marched through Rifle marking Juneteenth anniversary.
PHOTOS: Camping contentment
Last summer my boyfriend and I decided to explore the Meadow Lake area and camp out for the night. Every campsite leading to Meadow Lake was filled and because the two of us prefer seclusion rather than having neighbors, we decided to keep exploring.
After a bumpy drive down a dirt side road we found the perfect spot. We set up camp while the dog ran around and the sun began to set. The wildflowers were blooming in every direction and the quietness of the night began to set in.
It was at that moment we decided every year we would return to our new favorite little camping spot; we would make it a tradition. Two weeks ago we did just that. We did some hiking and fishing at Cliff Lakes, checked out Meadow Lake then headed to our spot.
Bumping along the dirt road that has seen better days, we came up over the ridge to see the aspen meadow we recognized from last year. Several hundred yards away was a large herd of elk to welcome our arrival. Though they disappeared into the trees we heard their bugles and calls all throughout the evening and early the next morning. It was the perfect sound of solitude, the sound of the wild.
Photo Essay: Urban Oasis
With a loud cheer one by one patrons filed into the new swimming facility in Rifle earlier this week.
In under 300 calendar days the city of Rifle and FCI Constructors Inc. were able to transform the half-century old Art Dague Pool into the new state of the art Rifle Metro Pool.
The approximately $8 million facility boast a new 6-lane lap pool, a zero-depth entry pool with a play structure, a flow channel and family whirlpool in addition to the existing slide and plunge pool.
The pool is currently operating under state and county guidelines, allowing groups of 75 for a 1 hour, 45 minute session.
For ticket information and the pool schedule go to city’s website.
Testing the waters at the new Rifle Metro Pool
Residents passing through the intersection of Railroad Avenue and East Eighteenth Street might have noticed that hustle and bustle around the new Rifle Metro Pool has picked up in the last few weeks.
The approximately $8 million facility replaces the old Art Dague Pool, which served the western Garfield County community for a half-century, and is set to open to the public at limited capacity Monday with tickets available online at https://utetheater.simpletix.com/e/54543.
The new facility adds a six-lane lap pool, zero-depth entry leisure pool with flow channel, and a family whirlpool to the existing water slide and plunge pool.
The city and county came to an agreement on guidelines to open the pool after the county was granted a variance from the state of Colorado, allowing outdoor pools to reopen with reduced capacity, timed sessions with rotations and proper social distancing.
Aquatics manager Jessica Wilson has been spending time running a new crew of lifeguards through training including instructional videos, water skills tests, written tests, advanced CPR classes and final scenario drills.
“Two weeks ago we started doing pre-course work and getting new lifeguards in the pool,” Wilson said. “We have about 25 potential new guards, due to social distancing we’ve had to group them out in groups of nine.”
Returning guards from last year will be back in the facility this week as they train new additions to the facility including the play structure and zero-depth pool. Wilson said one of the keys to this week’s training is finding any blind spots in the new facility from the seven different guard stations setup around the pool.
“We’ve added all the new structures that none of them have been trained on yet. We have never had a zero-depth entry, so now we have to add different certifications to all of the lifeguards,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of a whole new learning process right now.”
Austin Rickstrew, recreation coordinator of aquatics, is spending the crunch time getting the grounds prepped and ready for customers next week, training the staff on the systems it takes to run the new state of art facility.
“It is a curve ball because we have to train our staff on all of this new stuff, but we also have to learn it at the same time,” Rickstrew said.
Crews laid sod around the pool deck this week, and more than 200 deck chairs that were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic are due by the end of the week.
With the reduced capacity Rickstrew said they will be limited to 75 patrons during each one hour and 45 minute session. Between each session staff members will disinfect the pool deck, chairs, and tables.
The new pool’s maximum capacity is 550.
“The highest we can go under the current order is 175,” Rickstrew said. “That give us room to wiggle and we can add more people, but another thing that is going to be new for the public is they have to buy their tickets ahead of time.”
With the limited time that patrons can enjoy the facility management has changed the operation hours of the pool, opening at 6 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m. with Monday through Friday. Daily schedules will include water aerobics, lap swimming, water walking, toddler time and open swim. Saturday hours will run from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and include lap swimming, water walking, and open swim. Sunday hour will run from noon- 6 p.m.
For a complete schedule and sessions break down visit https://www.rifleco.org/90/Rifle-Metro-Pool.
CMC Rifle stages an academy in fire
The acrid smell of smoldering fire wafts into the brisk morning air just south of the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport as Lt. Denny Hostetler, with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, fuels an intentionally set fire inside an old minivan.
While Lt. Hostetler ignites the fires, Battalion Chief Scott Van Slyke, with Colorado River Fire Rescue, talks with the nine cadets enrolled in Colorado Mountain College Rifle Fire Academy 1, as they prepare to suit up and learn how to safely extinguish car fires during Sunday’s burn day.
“Historically in Garfield County people in this class have already been hired as a volunteer or are part time with an organization,” Van Slyke said. “Starting this year we were able to open that up to people that don’t have any experience. They can come take the class with us and hopefully it’s a stepping stone into a fire service career.”
Now in its second year, the 12-week spring program had to condense the academy after a nearly two-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After they restricted us because of COVID we talked it over with the class and decided to do a condensed program, and we’ve done 80 hours in the last two weeks,” Lt. Hostetler said. “It’s been really intensive.”
A typical academy, which takes over 200 hours to complete, meets three days a week. Typically the classes meet for 5 hours both Tuesday and Thursday, and 10 hours on Saturdays.
“With COVID we had about a month-and-a-half to two-month hiatus where we couldn’t do anything,” Van Slyke said.
Cadets must complete the firefighter 1 skill set, and another 45 contact hours for HazMat Operations and Awareness.
During the shutdown cadets were able to do most of the bookwork for HazMat Operations training virtually, but many of the hours need to be in person. Most in-person days consist of burns and drills to make sure cadets are using their personal protective equipment and self-contained breathing apparatus properly as they test their skills competency and progression in fighting and extinguishing fires.
“CMC had to request an exception to run the course face-to-face, provide an extensive safety plan, and gain approval from the state,” CMC Vice President and Rifle Campus Dean Tinker Duclo said. “Numerous COVID-19 adaptations had to be made to enable the in-person burn days of the class. Stringent social distancing protocol has been in place, use of bunker gear which is cleaned after each use, masks, and hand sanitizer.”
The class spent more than 5 hours staging different types of car fires that they may respond to once they are on the job.
Rifle resident Ambrose Menard, who is originally from Highlands Ranch, has been working as a wildland and volunteer firefighter with CRFR, which sponsored him to go to the academy. Menard works full time on a ranch in the Rifle area and has been logging 20 hours a week to earn his firefighter 1 certification in hopes of starting a career in fire service.
“The academy is tough enough to start out, and then you throw in taking a month or so off, not being with the guys training and your skills get rusty,” Menard said. “Feels great to be back, and getting back at it.”
Menard originally wanted to be a doctor when he was growing up, but fell in love with the possibility of being a firefighter.
Van Slyke said most of the cadets are working 40 hours a week, and spend an additional 20 hours in class.
Doss Coody, who is sponsored by Carbondale Fire and hopes to be hired on after certification, moved to Carbondale from Waco, Texas. As far back as he can remember he has wanted to be a firefighter and has been inspired by the staff of Carbondale Fire where he has been working as a seasonal wildland firefighter.
“So far it’s been some solid work in the classroom. These burn days have taught me a ton — I’ve learned vertical ventilation, fire attack, and car fires today,” Coody said. “I thoroughly hope that I become a career firefighter through Carbondale Fire.”
Hostetler said GSFD has shifted over the years and is hiring non-certified part time employees and paying for their education in hopes they will stick around and work for the department when a full-time position opens up.
“It’s worked pretty well for us so far. This is a new thing for the county, having all the departments working together, all the training chiefs and fire chiefs have been great about giving us the support we need to make this happen, and we’re hoping it continues to grow,” Hostetler said.
Photo Essay: A peaceful stand
As the sun faded over the Roan Plateau, people gathered.
What started as a small-town idea to support the black Lives Matter movement grew to a crowd of many more than 200 people filling the plaza outside of the Rifle City Hall on Tuesday.
Organizer Rebecca Trent of Rifle said she was stunned by the turnout to mourn those who have died due to racial injustice in America.
“Being in such a small town all the time, I was born in Glenwood and raised here in Rifle, seeing the inequality that is going on throughout our entire country is disgusting to me, I cannot even fathom it,” Trent said. “The passive racism that exists in this community as well is the reason we wanted to get together and do this. To show that all the people of color and of the black men and women that are here now, that we are with them and we stand for them.”
In a showing of uniformity and to ensure that no one was focused on them, but instead on the injustices that were talked about during the vigil, the organizers and many in attendance dressed in all black.
Residents from Rifle, and nearby Silt, Parachute, New Castle and Glenwood Springs stood shoulder to shoulder together in support of the movement. Most wore masks — a sign of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. People from as far away as Grand Junction and Denver also came.
Led by Chief Tommy Klein the Rifle Police Department helped keep the large crowd safe as they navigated the traffic to cross Railroad Avenue as people headed home for the day Tuesday.
“The clear majority are very polite and respectful, one or two have been edgy, but that is to be expected, it’s just part of protesting your First Amendment rights. We understand that, and we understand that some people are not happy with us,” Klein said.
After short speeches from the organizers, and several chants of support led by all in attendance, one by one people came forward and shared stories of inequality and offered support to family, friends and community members of color.
“I feel it is important to always stand up for what you believe in, especially to stand and make a point. Just showing that all lives are equal, and trying to find the systematic racism happening in America for hundreds of years — just to try and support the people around us,” Glenwood Springs resident Jonathan Webster said.
Tuesday’s peaceful vigil is one of thousands that have been held across the country, sparked by the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
“I have two sons at home, we are Latinos, and I’ve talked to a lot of my friends. A lot of us have kids now, and I asked them. ‘How do you explain George Floyd to your child. At what age do you do that,’” Rifle resident Steven Arauza said. “For me it’s this tension you live with as a person of color in this country, and it’s not a safe assumption that white people around you understand that. That’s what drives me to be out here, to show some support.”
Organizers closed the vigil with the lighting of the candles and a moment of silence for those who have died due to racial injustice. As the crowd dispersed some left their candles on a picnic table near a makeshift memorial with pictures of the fallen.
“We are just here to show our support, so they know they have support from across the country, from the capital to our little small town,” Trent said.
PHOTOS: Roaring Fork High School class of 2020 graduation