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Officials mark10 years since fire

By Dennis Webb

GSPI News Editor



A public commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Storm King Fire promises to be significantly different from the memorial that followed the disaster.

Organizer Bob Zanella said this year’s focus is on a shorter, lower-key event that will be less about mourning the loss of 14 firefighters and more about allowing their families to catch up with the acquaintances they have made in the Glenwood area.



“The families requested to keep it simple,” said Zanella, who is part of a committee that is organizing activities related to the anniversary. He was mayor of Glenwood at the time of the tragedy.

The 14 firefighters died late in the afternoon of July 6, 1994, while fighting a fire on Storm King Mountain west of Glenwood. High winds drove flames up the mountain, trapping the firefighters before they were able to escape over a ridge.

Over the years, some of their families have honored them on the anniversary by climbing up the Storm King Trail to the place where they died. A large contingent of family members are expected to do that this year.

When they come back down, they will be greeted by residents of the Canyon Creek subdivision west of Glenwood Springs. Canyon Creek was a staging area for Storm King firefighters, and a small memorial was built there after the deaths.

The memorial’s caretaker, Chuck Johnson, said residents will probably serve coffee and a light brunch, and just be available to the families.

“It’s supposed to be real casual,” he said.

At 4 p.m., an invitation-only picnic will be at the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The picnic will be primarily for the families and the members of the Storm King 14 Committee, Zanella said. That group’s members served as liaisons to the families after the fire, and worked to get the Storm King memorial built at Two Rivers Park.

Dignitaries such as Glenwood Springs City Council members, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management representatives, and probably U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis and U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, also are expected at the picnic, said Zanella. Altogether, probably 300-350 people will attend.

The public commemoration will take place at 7 p.m. at Two Rivers Park. Zanella said planners hope to keep it to about a half hour or 45 minutes.

“The idea was to keep it short but let people do their own thing afterward,” he said.

No politicians will speak at the event, said Zanella. Besides remembering the fallen 14, organizers plan to read the names of the dozens of firefighters who made it off the mountain alive that day, to celebrate their survival.

He said as many as 500 people might attend the evening event.

“We knew there are quite a few local people who would want to come,” he said.

Those who died on Storm King also will be high on the minds of more than 1,000 firefighters who will be participating in Wildfire Training Academy classes and other activities in the Roaring Fork Valley from June 7-13.

The Colorado-based, nonprofit, interagency academy trains firefighters from the federal to local levels.

Its summer classes are held in different communities every year, and this year they were scheduled to take place in the valley because of the Storm King anniversary.

“It’s been planned that way I guess for the last five years,” said Wendy Fischer, the academy’s training coordinator.

Classes will be held at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, but field training will occur up and down the valley. Entry-level firefighters are scheduled to climb up Storm King to learn what happened there and the lessons for firefighting safety.

The academy also plans to commemorate Storm King during evening ceremonies on June 10.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

dwebb@postindependent.com


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