Catastrophic Glenwood Springs fire sparked annual tradition |

Catastrophic Glenwood Springs fire sparked annual tradition

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Submitted photoLawrence "Bugo" Zancanella receives a Fireman's Service Award at the 1955 Firefighter's Dinner. Presenting the award to Zancanella are Ernie Row, left, and John Verdieck (at the time, Eagles secretary and president, respectively). The Fraternal Order of Eagles has hosted the annual dinner in recognition of the firefighters and emergency medical service people from Glenwood since 1949.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” On May 15, 1948, a gasoline plant in Glenwood Springs erupted in flames.

The fire originated from a tanker truck that was either delivering or filling up with fuel at the storage facility, which was located near where the Garfield County Jail stands today.

According to longtime Glenwood resident Lawrence “Buzz” Zancanella, whose father, Lawrence “Bugo” Zancanella was assistant fire chief in Glenwood at the time, the fire quickly spread to nine other storage tanks.

“You could see it from our house on Blake Street,” Zancanella recalled. He lives just two houses down Blake Avenue from where he watched the day’s events unfold 60 years ago.

Only 9 years old at the time, Zancanella remembers watching as the large storage tanks would shoot into the air like rockets into space. And as they reached their peak they would roll over and the fuel inside would ignite into a massive fireball.

A newspaper article said that the smoke plumes were reportedly seen as far away as Denver and that 50 firefighters, some from Glenwood, Eagle, Carbondale, New Castle and elsewhere, were injured battling the blaze.

According to Zancanella five of those firefighters were Glenwood Springs firemen, including his father, who spent six months in the hospital recovering from burns.

“I just remember back, how badly they got burned, how bad the fire was and how little equipment they had,” Zancanella said.

Then next year the Glenwood chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles threw the firefighters a dinner in recognition of their service that day.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of that first dinner. And the Eagles Club is still doing their part to say thank you ” not only the firefighters ” but also to all those in the emergency medical services, too.

“At first it was just the firemen,” said longtime Eagle member and Glenwood resident Mildred Alsdorf. “But now we invite all EMS and their spouses.”

Alsdorf has helped host the event for between 25 and 30 years as a member of the Eagles Club. The event is a special event for Alsdorf with her husband of many years, Carrol Alsdorf, and her son Mike Alsdorf, both firefighters. She’s thinks this year’s will be special for different reasons.

“In time I think it will because it’s been going this long,” she said.

Current Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Mike Piper said that the dinner has been an event he’s looked forward to the nine years he’s been in Glenwood.

“We use it as our annual get-together. It’s kind of a cool thing they fix us dinner and we have an opportunity to get together and thank them for doing it,” Piper said.

But in Piper’s opinion, remembering the reason for the dinner is what’s most important.

“I think the farther you get away from the catalyst for an anniversary or recognition of an event, sometimes it loses its importance,” Piper said. “Every year is a milestone, but that day was very important.”

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

– The Eagles Club will host the 60th anniversary Firefighter’s and EMS Dinner at the Glenwood Springs Eagles Lodge at 312 Seventh St. The event will be held on Saturday, Jan. 31, with social hour starting at 6:30 and dinner at 7 p.m.

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