Our lasting memorial to Glenwood Springs’ adopted heroes, Storm King 14
we will never forget
Kathi Beck, Tamera Bickett, Scott Blecha, Levi Brinkley, Robert Browning, Doug Dunbar, Terri Hagen, Bonnie Holtby, Rob Johnson, Jon Kelso, Don Mackey, Roger Roth, Jim Thrash, Richard Tyler.
As the Lake Christine Fire rages on southeast of Glenwood Springs, the irony isn’t lost on those who remember that this is also the anniversary of the fire on Storm King Mountain 24 years ago.
Each year on July 6, Glenwood Springs takes a moment to honor its pledge never to forget the 14 federal wildland firefighters who lost their lives while defending the town from a fire on Storm King Mountain.
It was on this date 24 years ago that a relatively small fire caused by a lightning strike four days prior turned into a raging inferno whipped up by 40 mph winds from an approaching cold front, but no accompanying rain for relief.
Numerous federal wildland firefighters who had arrived from Oregon, Montana and Idaho to try to bring the fire under control were working to build a fire line amid the thick, bone-dry oak brush late that afternoon.
They were caught off guard when the fire spotted below them, and began racing up the steep ridge just west of Canyon Creek, sending the fire-fighting crews scrambling to try to make it over the top before the fire reached them.
Some made it over just in time. Some deployed crude fire shields in an attempt to protect themselves from the passing flames.
Fourteen of them didn’t make it.
Following the tragedy, residents of Glenwood Springs made a pledge that this city would never forget the sacrifice made by the brave men and women who came from out of state to fight the fire.
Several of them were college-age students who spent their summers fighting fires as part of the prestigious ranks of the Prineville (Oregon) Hotshots.
What was officially labeled as the South Canyon Fire also became a case study for future firefighting efforts and helped establish new protocols to maintain firefighter safety.
Around Glenwood Springs, support for the firefighters who remained on scene to fight the fire came in many ways, from organizing meals, to supplying clean towels, to providing the relatively new technology, cellphones, so that they could stay in touch with their families.
Around town, purple ribbons became the community’s tribute to the fallen firefighters. Today, the purple ribbon remains as a symbol of respect and remembrance of that day two dozen years ago.